That Sinking Feeling.

We’re entering a new phase. The cards no longer focus on just one character, well, they still do, but only on the back. The front of the next cards each display a cover from the Marvel Special Missions, and the character on the back plays a (big) part in the featured comic. We’ll discuss each story and take a look at the character that was placed in the spotlight.
The Special Missions series ran from 1986 through 1989 and consisted of 28 issues. The stories could be read separately, but they were connected to the main ARAH continuity. What better way to start this mini-series with #1 of the Special Missions? I have to admit, starting with any other issue would be rather foolish. Anyway, this is Impel Trading Card #83, featuring Special Missions #1, That Sinking Feeling.

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The cover for this issues is also used as the cover for the TPB of the Special Missions. As a kid (I must have been 12-13), I found my first G.I.Joe comic book in a bargain bin during our local Comic Book Festival. Now, don’t confuse/compare this with/to a Comic Con, first of Belgian comics (a.k.a. strips) != comics and the Festival is more of an expo with cardboard cutouts of comic book figures and then a sales room and an artist alley. All-in-all, nothing spectacular, but they always did get the most well known Belgian & French artists over to sign/draw. I used to go there every year and on one of my visits I browsed through the comic books bargain bin. I had a few comics back then, some single issues of ALF and TMNT – both in Dutch – from when I was a kid. Just a few issues, non-sequential and so I never got to find out the rest of the story or how it all started. That was the reason I looked through them that day. I didn’t find any of those comics, but I did find the G.I. Joe Special Missions TPB #5. At that time, I was still playing with my Joes. I had some of the cartoons on VHS (also in Dutch), but had absolutely no idea there was a comic book series (don’t judge me, this was before the internet). Needless to say, it was an instant buy for me. Quite a bargain too, I believe I paid about 100 Belgian Franks (about $3). I guess you could say that this was the start of my collector’s life.
The Festival was organized by the Comic Book Library/Store in my home town. Yes, a library foremost. And you needed to be a paid member to lend the comic books. They had mostly Belgian strips, but they also had a few comic book racks… all in Dutch. After the Festival, I went over there and found out they only had the TPB #4 in stock. And only for lending, it was not for sale :-(. I registered as a paid member and lend the TPB a few times so I’d have some more comics to read. The next year, they sold it off in the bargain bin on the Festival. So, now I had 2 TPBs. It took me a few years and a lot of searching online (hooray for the internet!), but I finally managed to track down the other TPB’s and even the single issue comics that got released/translated as well. We got 19 issues in the series, and not all covers are the same as the original series. For more details, check out YoJoe.com.By this time, I had already discovered that the Special Missions were a spin-off of the Marvel ARAH run and started buying those as well. Then there were the DDP issues and … well, let’s just say that I have a pretty complete G.I.Joe comic book collection. And it’s still growing.
Wow, that was quite the sidetrack. Let’s get back to the cover at hand.
The cover art for issue #1 is done by Mike Zeck and John R. Beatty, the story by Larry Hama and the art is by Herb Trimpe.Browsing the interwebs, I came across Mike Zeck’s webpage and found out that he is selling art prints of some of his Joe covers. It didn’t take me too long to place an order and I hope to write a post about them soon (Spoiler. One of them is this cover!).
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The story begins in the Baltic Sea where we see a Swedish fisher’s boat being investigated by the October Guard. Apparently the Russians have detailed dossiers on the Joes and Colonel Brekhov, aboard the Hind piloted by Daina, is able to recognize some of the undercover Joes. The Joe team consists of Shipwreck, Cutter, Deep Six, Torpedo and Wet Suit, all posing as Swedish fishermen. As the Hind takes another pass, 3 Cobra FANGs approach. The Baroness, escorted by two Cobra Troopers (a.k.a. cannon fodder), is assaulting the October Guard’s helicopter. Both support FANGs are destroyed and the Hind is crippled, but both them and the Baroness escape the fight.
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After the shooting, Deep Six takes out the SHARC with a live video connection to the surface. Meanwhile, Daina and Brekhov crash/land the Hind on the Russian Navy frigate, Udaloy. The Baroness crashes into the ocean near a Cobra hydrofoil with Firefly and a group of Eels. Both sides conclude that the Joes’ presence is proof that there is disabled submarine on the bottom of the sea. They both decide to engage the Joes. The Russian’s Captain Bulgakov asks the Joes to surrender, but in the mean time, Horrorshow and Daina are diving towards the SHARC to tap into the video feed. Daina then goes on to attack Cobra and Horrorshow dives deeper down to locate the submarine. Meanwhile, the Baroness send 2 Eels to board the Udaloy, the Russian frigate. On board, they overhear Schrage and Bulgakov discussing the video feed and they confirm the finding to the Baroness.
On the deck of the Udaloy, the fighting starts. Daina fights the Baroness on the Hydrofoil and Horrorshow gets knocked out by Deep Six when he discovers the SHARC’s video tape recorder. The Hydrofoil crashes into the Udaloy after Daina got kicked into the water. Firefly and the Baroness to join the Eels in the fight with Brekhov, Stormavik and Schrage. Daina made her way back to the aft deck of the frigate and takes out the Eels with her sniper rifle. During the fight, Torpedo and Wet-Suit climb aboard on the other side of the ship and walk up to Bulgakov on the bridge.
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The Baroness and Firefly are losing the fight and Colonel Brekhov asks them to surrender. Then a Cobra submarine surfaces and Destro appears. He explains that there is no American submarine stranded on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It was all a hoax set up by the Joes to enable a defector to cross over. On the top of the bridge, Captain Bulgakov is standing by wearing a STABO harness and while he explains his motives, Wild Bill and Hawk are flying over in a C-130 to pick him up. Destro’s troops try to shoot at Bulgakov as the Joes sweep him off the ship, but to no avail, they were already to far away.
The fighting stops and the Joes throw Horrorshow back into the water as the October Guard kick the Baroness and Firefly off their ship. The Joes have accomplished their mission without firing a single shot.
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Normally, I’d be finding some cryptic way of teasing what the next post is going to be about, but you can probably guess it. Anyway, did I mention before that these Special Missions are some of my favorite stories? Probably a few times already. But let’s face it, they are great stories. I can’t wait to get back to reading the next issues and write about them. Especially the next one… I might have mentioned this one before a while back. (see #48 – Clutch).
See you later! Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

Do you want to build an army?

It’s Morphin’ Time!

Wait! What? No it’s not.

Question. Did Hasbro really spend $522 million on the Power Rangers? They have plenty of power in-house already if you ask me. Like the troops we’re discussing today! It’s a new year and to start it off in style, I’ve got a threat for all of you.

It’s army building time! That sounds better. (Picture a kid (or adult collector) grabbing a bunch of troops and showing them to the camera whilst shouting this phrase.) Got the reference? Good, now, let’s do this!

With an assorted range of Vipers and consorts, no teenagers in flashy pajamas. We’ll be going over the Impel Trading Cards #75 all the way through to #82. That’s right, 8 cards in one post. Talk about value for money! (Well, since I do all of this for free with no income whatsoever I guess every post is excellent value for money, so don’t even think about complaining. Just keep on reading, Soldier!).

We start this rundown of Cobra underlings with #75, the Desert Scorpion. According to the file card, being a Desert Scorpion is a punishment given to under-motivated Vipers who refuse to follow orders. After one year of unblemished service, a Cobra trooper can be reinstated in the Viper Corps. Another disciplinary fiasco and it’s straight into the “Leaky Suit Brigade” (more on those a bit further. Keep on reading).

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What a good way to kick of this Viper-overview. Although the figure is probably not the most popular one with the fans, it is a cool concept that was missing from Cobra’s army and the figure released in 1991, came with it’s own scorpion. Here in Belgium, the figure was released with a different set of accessories and so the card art was altered as well. Apparently the market over here was more important in the past. We got altered figures, an active fan-club and oh, yeah, the European Exclusive Tiger Force! The design of the figure is quite nice. The colors all match great. The fact that the figure came with a bunch of accessories is also noteworthy.

Next up is #76, the Techno-Viper. Released in 1987, the Purple Vipers (Grape Soda anyone?), later inspired the Purple Power Ranger in the 16th (yes, you read that correctly, 16th) series. That may be true, it may be alt-truth. It’s on the internet now, so you better believe it! Next month (February 2019), Nickelodeon will be broadcasting the 26th series (the first one produced by Hasbro Studios). There have been over 900 episodes over all the Power Rangers incarnations. We really need a new G.I. Joe cartoon.

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But enough about that. There have been 3 versions of the Techno-Viper released. The OG grape from 1987, then a repaint in 1994 as part of the Star Brigade (2 color variations – copper vs yellow) and then in 2011 a new sculpt was released in a more subdued purple (from grapes to lavender).

As it happens, I never had this figure as a kid, but it was one of the 4 figures I came across last summer on a local flea market. I must add that they were the only figures I saw all summer on flea markets. The amount of Joes on offer ‘in the wild’ has reduced drastically over the years. Sure, online there are quite some people selling of both vintage and newer Joes, but they think it’s worth more than gold… I haven’t really been expanding my collection last year, all my stuff is still in boxes until we can get around (read: save enough money) to finish the attic, so I refrained from buying new toys (apart from those 4 loose and incomplete figures). I remain buying the comics and as you nay have seen also been buying some books (Ladybird Action Force, Annuals, …). Enough sour grapes right? Let ‘s move on.

And moving on takes us to #77 and presents us the Toxo-Viper. More commonly known as the Leaky Suit Brigade. As stated above, the Toxo-Vipers are on the bottom of the Cobra food chain… probably even below Croc Master’s crocs. I truly believe that nobody in their right minds would ever volunteer to become a Toxo-Viper.

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The whole unit is used to serve as punishment for major offenses and so it’s bad reputation makes sure that the other troops stay in line. Even though they are not loved within Cobra, the figures do have a fanbase. There have been 3 versions of the Toxo-Vipers. The original dates back to 1988. It really has a good color scheme with mainly purple and black, red and blueish accents. The suits may not be the most expensive (again to motivate the troops to work fast), but the design is nice. In 1991, the second version was released as part of the … Eco-Warriors line. If ever there was a perfect fit! The figure however is not that remarkable. It was a new mold, but, the figure is just bland in my opinion. It’s a lot of green and purple and a touch of red. Compared to the original figure, it’s definitely a step backwards. Then in 2014, the 3rd version was released as part of the Convention Exclusive Zombie Initiative box set. Unfortunately, the design builds on the 1991 version and not on the original. So again, lots of green and purple and some red. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad looking figure, but far from the iconic look of the original. As I mentioned before, my collecting days are currently on-hold and I try to limit my purchases to comic books. This said, I would like to add a Toxo-Viper (1988 version of course) to my collection. If I start looking on the interwebs again to expand the collection, this one will be the first to get.

Now, we’re not quite done talking about leaks, albeit not quite as toxic this time. We do get wet again with #78, the Hydro-Viper. I grew up in a small town by the coast. The sea always seemed to be there, yet I don’t feel it’s attraction. I mean, it’s no white sand, blue sea out here. It’s a brown stretch of sand with an other shade of brown or green for the sea. Not that attractive. And in summer, the beach and the town got overrun with tourists, so it was even less fun to be at. I’ve never felt the need to go into the sea. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been in more than 5 times my whole life. I always associated water with danger.

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And dangerous it is with Hydro-Vipers in the ocean. Another figure that got it’s first release in 1988 (Cobra really got big then). And another figure that uses a lot of purple. The figure came with a lot of cool accessories such as a helmet, fins, scuba pack, harpoon and a black devil ray. According to the filecard, the Hydro-Vipers are EELS that have been surgically altered to withstand the effects of deep diving and have webs implanted between their fingers. A lot of Cobra troops seem to be getting these alteration (DNA resequencing, Crispr anyone?). It feels like Hasbro and Larry Hama did everything to make the Cobra troops less human. No one in their right state of mind would join Cobra, they needed people that were altered. That’s it, there’s just this one version of the figure ever made. A shame? Perhaps, but we have more Vipers coming up. Let’s keep on building that army.

Continuing the rundown, we have #79 featuring the Range-Viper. First released in 1990, this figure is marked as a Cobra Wilderness Trooper. The design is a strange one. It appears like the helmet is showing grey matter, yes, brains, on top and the sided, while the face is as blue mask with red eyes. The whole head reminds me of a skeleton. The colors are blue, black and a bit of yellow. Not exactly what you’d use as camouflage, but it looks scary and maybe that was the point?

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There have been 4 more releases, in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. Only the 2006 version shares the same design of the original one, this time the colors more brown and tan and was released as part of the Operation Flaming M.O.T.H. set from the Club. I actually own this one, though I have to say that the original blue version looks fiercer. The other versions all had removable helmets that did give that skeleton vibe. The final version turned the color palette darker, with shades of black and green, giving the figure a more jungle look.

I remember the Range Vipers getting some exposure in the DIC cartoon series. Not a lot of comic book appearance if I recall correctly. These troops look scary as hell and you wouldn’t want to run into them in the dark. Nor in the light.

Now it’s time to take it to the stars with #80 featuring the Astro Viper. So far we’ve covered the land and sea, now we take it to the skies and above. The Astro Vipers are recruited from within the Strato Viper corps… I guess you could say it’s a step up on the ladder… Sorry, very lame pun. Now, we discussed the Strato Vipers way back when we discussed Impel Trading Card #14 featuring the awesome Night Raven, but we’ll talk about them even more when we reach #87. Stay tuned and read on for now.

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There have been 2 releases of the Astro Vipers, one in … you guessed it 1988 and the second version in 1993. The original figure is the one depicted on the card here. Sporting black, red and gold (yellow), the figure does pop up the radar. The second version was a simple repaint, this time in a dark turquoise and part of the Star Brigade line. Strangely enough, this latest version doesn’t include a rocket pack… I guess they had to jump or got pushed in the direction of the battle and just had to wing it. Also noteworthy is that these Vipers aren’t really soldiers, their main task within Cobra is repair and maintenance of the Cobra satellites. Technicians basically, like the Red Shirts in Star Trek (OG). And probably just as expendable too.

Staying high, the T.A.R.G.A.T is on card #81. Technically they are part of Destro’s Iron Grenadiers, but hey, who’s nitpicking? Since they are members of the IG, black, red and gold are the colors we’d expect, but they’re also sporting bright blue with Destro’s logo on their shoulder/chest. I must say it suits the figure.

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The original figure was released in 1989 and got a repaint in 1993 as part of the Star Brigade. Where have we heard that story? In any case, this repaint is … well, bright. Gold with purple accents. And again, the coolest feature of the original figure, the backpack jetpack, is missing. The same mold was used by Funskool to create the 2nd Street Hawk figure, this time in just plain black. The T.A.R.G.A.T.s appear in DIC’s Operation: Dragonfire and that’s it really.

Rounding off this band of not-so-merry men, we have #82, the Night Viper. Ah, ’82. Let’s talk about this number first. 1982 to be more precise. What a year. The Commodore 64 was launched, the second Hama massacre occurred (see what I did there?), the Falkland War begins … and ends, E.T. phoned home, the US Air Force Space Command was founded, the first International Day of Peace is proclaimed (can we get that up to a week, month, year maybe?), MJ released Thriller, Time magazine’s Man of the Year is ‘the computer’, I get thrown into this world and the world receives the Word of Hama, a (comic) book named G.I. Joe that should surpass the Bible in sales (Go to your local House of Worshipping and spend your dollars on new parables of Your True Saviors every week! Please, finish reading this post by your humble prophet first.). General Hawk and his 13 disciples take on the evil snake that would conquer the world if not for their bravery and courage. Let’s get back on track now and take a closer look at the Night Vipers.

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This is hands down my favorite Viper out there (until the Rap-Viper is officially released, that is. More below.). First released in 1989 the figure received 4 more iterations later on (I’m ignoring the hyphen issue). The original figure is iconic if you ask me. The dark green and black, the night vision goggles. Not to complicated, but really good. My only question is, what do they do when it’s light? I guess, it’s always night somewhere, so you could deploy them in the dark all over the world. The second version uses the same mold but with lame colors. It was part of Operation Flaming MOTH and came packed with a Frag Viper, both in shades of light green and brown. Version 3 was a Direct to Consumer Exclusive from the club in 2008. The figure came with 3 guns, a black helmet and web-gear. And more realistic looking night vision goggles. The color scheme was again dark green and black. Version 4 came in 2013 as part of the fourth wave of Retaliation figures. This one a perfect homage to the original version. It came with a flashlight… wouldn’t that render the night vision goggles useless though? Version 5 was released in 2014 as part of the 50th Anniversary and was bundled with Low Light (v8) in the Night Marksmen set. A simple repaint of the 2013 version, this time in red.

Phew, that was quite the rundown, but we covered a lot of ground in this post. As a bonus, here is a custom built Rap-Viper by ozzie92. The club should have done a collab with Wordburglar and the customizer to get this as the final figure they release.

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And just because we can’t get enough of it… and – trust me – this song will stick in your noggin, here’s the official video by Wordburglar again. Enjoy.

 

Wordburglar “Rap Viper” (Welcome To Cobra Island)

 

As an added bonus, I’ve changed some of the lyrics on one of the greatest hits of the past years… Or something like that…

Do you want to build an army?

Come on, let’s go and play!

They never ever hit a Joe

Can’t take it any more

It’s like they just can’t take aim.

They used to be all losers

And now they’re just overpaid.

I wish for some Iron Grenadiers.

Do you want to build an army?

It doesn’t have to be with Vipers.

I’ll go away now.

Okay, bye.

 

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

 

P.S. Until next time, we’ll be changing this up a little, you might say it’ll be something special 🙂

P.P.S. If you made it this far, you’ve read over 2400 words (longest blog post so far). Pat yourself on the back trooper and thanks. Really, thank you. I couldn’t have kept this blog alive without the support from the G.I. Joe collector’s community.

Probably the worst code name ever.

OK, times change and all that, but even then, the code name for today’s featured Joe is just not right. I mean #meJoe people. Seriously people, can we make this # trending? Maybe Hasbro will notice it and we can have a bunch of new Joes next year (I’ll even settle for some repaints of Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow at this point). In the meantime, here’s Impel Trading Card #74 featuring Hit & Run.

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Just when you thought that with Snow-Job and Skidmark, you heard all the bad codenames… They gave this poor guy that lost his parents in a car crash with a drunk driver (does that story sound familiar or what?) the codename Hit & Run. Ok, it’s only fair to say that this also applies to his military style, but still, I think it’s a bit harsh.

There have been 5 figures released of Hit & Run, the first way back in 1988 (30 years ago – feeling old are we?). The figure was released as a regular single carded figure, but there was also a Target exclusive version that added a working parachute. The figure is one of the best ones out there. The full camouflage and the set of accessories it came with is just plain awesome. The second version was only released in 2009 as part of the Assault on Cobra Island box set. It featured a removable helmet, even more gear but also a little less cool camouflage paint. In 2013, the next version was released as part of the Convention Exclusive Night Force – Nocturnal Fire box set from the Official G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club. It came with even more gear and one hell of an angry face. If you’d see that face coming from the shadows, you’d probably sh*t & run. Version 4 & 5 were both released in 2016. v4 as part of the FSS 3 and v5 in the 50th anniversary “Vanishing Act” pack. All the previous versions were using green colors, this last version is black and grey and make him look like someone who’s been dead for quite some time.

In the Marvel series, he first appeared in issue #80. He assists other Joes in stopping Cobra forces from claiming a nearby newly formed island. The land mass eventually sinks back into the ocean. He later takes part in an attempt to rescue hostages, which turns out to be a Cobra ruse: the terrorists and hostages were all Cobra agents. In Special Missions #22, he then deals with a legitimate hostage situation, where an isolated farmhouse is taken over by two criminals, but problems arise when the criminals are initially misidentified. The ending of this story is brutal and beautiful at the same time. easily one of the best stories of the run.

I don’t think he appears in one of the cartoons. Let me know if you spotted him somewhere.

Next time (yes, that will also be next year!), I have something special planned. It’s still in the works, but trust me, it will be great.

Happy Collecting and YoJoe! Have a great end of the year and be safe!

 

Weed man!

I know the G.I. Joes can sometimes look like superheroes, but they’re actually only humans that perform above and beyond the call of duty to protect the free world. But if they were superheroes, this guy’s super hero name would be Weed Man. Not really sure what superpowers he would have. The power to grow plants on unfertile ground? Smoke his opponents? Be high as a kite all day? Flying I mean, to watch over us. You know, like super heroes do. (Phew, dodged that issue quite expertly.) Time to introduce the man of the hour, featured on the Impel Trading Card #73, it’s Pot-finder! I mean Pathfinder. (Dammit, I did fell over the elephant in the room and called what everyone is thinking, right?)

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There have been 3 figures released of Pathfinder. The original version from 1990, then an all-grey 2001 version released exclusively with the A.W.E. Striker. That same figure gets a 2004 Venom vs Valor version as part of a set containing the V.A.M.P. with Twin Battle Gun and Chief Torpedo and Big Brawler. Then in 2016, Pathfinder gets picked up in the Club’s FSS 4, taking the look back to resemble  the original figure (as is the case with many of the FSS figures).

In the comics he was a background figure in the Devil’s Due run, but he did get a lot of screentime in the DIC cartoon. He is prominently present in ‘United we stand’, ‘Granny Dearest’, ‘Victory at Volcania’, ‘Pigskin Commando’, ‘An officer and a Viperman’, ‘D-Day at Alcatraz’ and ‘Stuck on you’. He is often paired up with Captain Grid-Iron or Ambush, but in this last episode, he is accompanied by Cobra Commander during a fun stroll through the jungle after crashing during battle.

I don’t have much love for the character. I can’t really pinpoint why, but I just don’t like the figure. He looks a bit like a Nam version of Snake-Eyes (but with his hat higher on his head). And I guess you could use him as a basis for a custom. The colors don’t do it for me and let’s face it, the guy is just a gardener with an attitude.

Next time, we’ll take a high risk, high reward offensive strategy or cause a traffic accident. Who’s to say? In any case…

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

The man in the Cactus.

Watch your back!

Watch your flanks!

Watch your front!

Nothing is what it appears to be. Expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything. Today we look for #72, Ambush. Now, where is he?

 

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No that’s not him.

Maybe he’s here.

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Nope, not there.

Ah, here he is.

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2 weeks ago, the Joe on Joe podcast reviewed the DIC episode “A is for Android”. The opening sequence featured Ambush, perfectly camouflaged as a cactus on the battlefield. I wonder what does creative types where drinking/smoking when they came up with that. Whatever the case, we do get Ambush in action. Doing what he does best. Hiding. No seriously, the man really is a brave fighter. He just happens to be very good in hiding himself.

There have been 4 figures released of Ambush, the original in 1990 and a 1993 repaint of that in neon for the Dino-Hunters subteam. After an eleven year break, the figure gets renamed as Aaron “Ambush” McMahon. He also grew a beard, sporting some eye shadow even Johnny Depp would think twice about and let a trimmer loose on that garden brush under his nose. Then in 2017, the club released a new figure of him under the FSS 5. They brought back the wild stache and dropped half the beard.

The card art for the original figure does depict a mustache, but the color scheme is much more subdued. Because of that wild ginger look, in my team, he was Scottish, while officially he was from California.

In the comics, he first appeared in issue #111. As part of a recon team he is sent into Benzheen with Recoil and Sneak-Peek (SPOILER ALERT – who get’s killed for the first time). Later on we see Ambush driving the Battle Wagon in Trans-Carpathia when the Joes side with Destro and the Baroness. He then returns in issues #128-129 to rescue Hawk and Lady Jaye in Borovia.

In the cartoons, he is featured a few times. As mentioned before, we see him in “A is for Android” where Cobra has an Android version of Hawk running around without a good sense of humor. But he also appears in the “United we stand” episode where he and Pathfinder need to work together to defeat Cobra. In “Revenge of the Pharaohs” he is teamed up with Captain Grid-Iron. Next we see him aiding General Hawk in “Victory at Volcania”. Quite the career he’s making for himself, from helping a weedwhacker over partnering with a captain to end up as the right hand of the general. He later even gets personal in “I found You … Evy” where he tells the story of the only person who was ever able to find him.

That’s it for now. Join me again next time when we’ll take a look at Ambush’ weed whacking buddy.

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!