Showdown

Well, it’s time to put out the cards on the table with this post that brings matters to a head or acts as a conclusion or point of decision. The title could also refer to a game for the blind and visually impaired, which in a way does relate to the story. The blindness that is. There are also numerous movies sharing this title, dating back as far as 1942, as well as television shows and episodes, records and songs. But enough about those things, let’s get cracking with the Impel Trading Card #87, featuring the cover for the Special Missions issue #5, Showdown. Spoiler alert, the moral of the story is a teeny tiny bit in your face, like BIG time.

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The story kicks off with a Cobra ground crew inspecting a Night Raven. A member of the rescue crew is looking into the cockpit and questioning why a crowbar is included in such a high tech plane. A maintenance officer explains that when the canopy would not open for some reason, the breakout tool can be used to bust the canopy and allow the pilot to escape. At that moment, the Strato-Viper appears and bullies both crews away from his plane. He will be taking off to recon a Florida Air Force Base.

The Joes have spotted the recon flight and are sending Slip-Stream and Ace up to greet him. And annoy him. Their orders are to only fire when fired upon first. On the way to their planes, they meet the ground and rescue crew they hooked up with the night before. The maintenance crew had been repairing the Conquest all night and one of the men couldn’t visit his kid in the hospital because of the overtime he put in. Slip-Stream tells him everything is fine with his kid and gives a toy (Transformer!).

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Now, I’m not a huge Transformer connaisseur, but I do know that this fellow is Megatron and he turns into a tank or a gun… Not a fighter plane. I guess Larry and the team weren’t that big of Transformers fans themselves.

I’m not sure what to make of this to be honest. Later on in the story, the Joes encounter the Transformers, so either that is out of continuity or they’ve created toys based on the giant robots that try to destroy them… I think that it’s just a pop-culture reference that needed to be put into the comic by the marketing people over at Hasbro. Seeing the wrong name and transforming ability, Larry didn’t think about it and just added it in to keep them from giving him a hard time about it.

 

 

The Joes take to the sky and find the Night Raven. Ace inverts the SkyStriker and taunts the Strato-Viper, who gets pissed off quite quickly.

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He fires a missile at Ace’s SkyStriker and pops a flare so that Slip-Stream in the Conquest behind him is blinded. Ace is hit and has to eject. He lands in the water and the rescue crew is scrambling to pick him up asap.

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It takes a few moments for Slip-Stream to regain his vision and by this time, the Night Raven is behind him. He shoots out a flare of his own and runs an evasive maneuver, but that stalls his engine. The Strato-Viper sees the Conquest spiraling down and flies away. Slip-Stream remains calm and collected and doesn’t pass out. Just in time, he gets the engine running again.

 

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Meanwhile, the Night Raven is having some electronic issues caused by the Conquest’s flare. The Strato-Viper is getting all worked up about it and is so distracted that he doesn’t notice Slip-Stream coming up from behind. Slip-Stream opens fire and damages the Night Raven enough to send it going down. The Strato-Viper tries to eject, but the canopy doesn’t open, not even with the manual release. He’s able to crash land on the water, but the breakout tool is missing, so he can’t break the canopy open.

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The Cobra rescue crews are airborne, but they refuse to fly at full speed. The Strato-Viper’s abusive behavior towards them shoots back like a boomerang. The plane is slowly sinking with him still aboard and locked in.

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Slip-Stream flies past Ace to make sure he is fine. The rescue crew soon picks him up. Ace didn’t even have the time to test out his shark repellent spray (another pop-culture reference). When they arrive at the Joe base in Florida, Slip-Stream gives a Top Gun style victory roll to dedicate the victory to the ground crew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elsewhere above the ocean, the Cobra rescue crew arrives just as the tailfin of the Night Raven slips below the surface. No sign of the Strato-Viper. Instead of trying to locate him, they just discuss the fact that they really should have given the canopy some maintenance, but that the pilot should have been able to break out. One of the crew casually shows the breakout tool he swiped from the plane before the Strato-Viper took off. They throw it into the ocean and head back for Cobra Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I always knew that G.I.Joe was all about good versus bad, but this story lays it on THICK. As Matthew 7:12 teaches the believers, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”. The good do good, the bad don’t do much… And not much good, would you believe it. The difference between the Cobra pilot and the Joe duo couldn’t be more clear as well. Where the Strato-Viper abuses his crew, the Joes are friends with their ground and maintenance crew. Naturally, this reflects in the response from the crews when they actually have to go out and rescue their respective pilot. It’s all very simple and sickeningly obvious that it might as well be a Disney movie.

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The card itselfs depicts the cover from the issue as usual. It’s a fiery cover where it would appear the Joes aren’t faring to well against Cobra. Yes, there are actual Cobra in this Special Mission. We haven’t seen them in the flesh since issue #1. The cover art was done by Mike Zeck and John R. Beatty. The book itself had a script by Larry Hama and art by Herb Trimpe. The wonderteam of the Special Missions.

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The back of the card shows the Strato-Viper. The figure, yes, just one official release, came on the shelves with the 1986 series and was boxed with the Night Raven. There was a mail-order campaign in 1989 and another one in 1992 where you could get a Strato-Viper without the plane as part of – respectively – the Special Missions Driver mail-away and the Cobra Patrol Unit mail-away.

I actually do have the Night Raven, with a Strato-Viper, though I didn’t as a child. It was one of the first big toys I really wanted as an adult collector. By that time, I still hadn’t read the English comics, but I did know of the Strato-Viper because one of the cartoons (In the Presence of Mine Enemies) was released over here, dubbed in Dutch, on VHS. I must have watched that tape hundreds of times, and I still have it in my collection. In this story, like you don’t know, Slip-Stream is able to shoot down another Night Raven, but his X-30 is destroyed as well. Both pilots land on an island that harbors one of Dr. Mindbender’s labs. It’s a great story, that has a happy end for the good guys, although no-one ever saw that female Strato-Viper ever again… Speaking of the Night Raven though, the plane got a second life as part of the Sky Patrol. That huge beast looks awesome in chrome. I have mine still mint in the bags and in the box, but the old tape has loosened over the years and so I’ve been able to take a look at the shiny parts. The small reconnaissance craft was also given another chance as part of the G.I.Joe Crusader Space Shuttle. Come to think of it, I own that one too. I guess you could say I’m a fan of the Night Raven/Sky Raven/Crusader. In honesty, I always wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid. I was devastated when it turned out I had to wear glasses and that meant I would never have been able to become a fighter pilot. I lived close to the local airport (mostly cargo and some smaller planes back then), and so I always had a fascination for them. It’s only natural that I like collecting them as Joe vehicles. So I still treasure all my planes from both Joe and Cobra. And since we’re not getting some new planes (so far, and with the 6″ line, it’s doubtful any vehicles will be released), I’m looking at other lines to score new planes. I have the True Heroes C-130 and the Beast Bomber, and would you believe it, The Corps has a new plane out now, the Sky Strike.

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A very good looking plane if I do say so myself. The only issue is that I can’t get my hands on it. So if you happen to live in the UK (or Australia, it would appear they have it at the other end of the world too), and would like to help a fellow collector out. Let me know! We can make a deal! Contact me through the contact form, over on Twitter or via mail (bjorn@europeanjoes.com).

That’s it for now, join me back next time when we take on … you’ve guessed it, #88. There a story there, so do come back. Don’t miss out on it, no need to evade. Get it. I’m going now. But seriously, it’s a great story. #hypebuilding

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

Is it too late to have some cheer?

A while back I found out that the boys from G.I. Joburg have created a Christmas sweater in G.I.Joe/Cobra theme. As a collector of not only the toys and comics, but also everything remotely connected to Joe, I had to check it out.

It took some time to get my order in. I still don’t really know what was going wrong, but a (very) long story short, with the help of Paul and the people over at Teespring, I was able to place an order. Then the waiting could begin… After all the delay, I didn’t expect to get the sweater in time for this Christmas. It arrived here just after New Year, so I guess I can still wear it, no?

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What would an internationally bought item post be without a good rant about the Belgian Postal Services? Not one of me. That’s right. So here we go (again – sorry for the people who have heard this before… over and over again). I was at work when the postman came by, so he put a notice in the mailbox stating that I could go and pick up my package in a Post Office nearby. And I should bring $40 if I wanted to take it home with me. Now, I’ve said this before, I don’t mind paying taxes, it’s the way capitalism works after all, but they charge me $25 for the ‘service’ of getting the package cleared through customs.  I’m not saying they don’t do something, but they can’t tell me exactly what they do. They just say they perform ‘formalities’. I pay the bill they shove down my throat without having another option whatsoever. A little bit of explanation as to what I’m paying for would be welcome.

Well, enough about that. I’m sure that you’ve heard it all before or maybe even had the unpleasant experience yourself. Feel free to read back some of the previous blog posts, I’m sure you’ll come across a rant about shipping costs sooner or later. Seriously though, shipping is killing the international market for collectors, especially when prices are also going up. Another example for you, I’ve been looking into getting the IDW Michael Golden’s G.I. Joe Yearbook: Artist’s Edition Portfolio Variant. I’ve found it on the official IDW webpage for $40, which is okay I guess, but the shipping would be a whopping $113.79. That would make a total of over $150 and then again I’d have to pay $25 formalities and another $44 on taxes. Insane if you ask me.

As I’m writing this, news has leaked about the upcoming 6″ line. I’m hopeful we’ll be getting something over here in Europe as well. I’m not completely sold on the scale, I guess growing up with up with the 3.75″ figures, they’d always be my first choice. I’m not saying I wouldn’t buy any in 6″. I just want to see it first before I start burning through my wallet (again).

That’s it for now. Check out the G.I.Joburg shop on Teespring for more great designs and I’ll see you next time when we will be getting back on track with the Impel Trading Cards (we’re at #87).

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

2020 a.k.a. the best Joe year this century?

Well, another year has come and gone so I guess it’s time to look back at 2019 and forward into 2020. To be honest, I haven’t been able to put as much time into the blog as I would have hoped at the beginning of last year. The first half of 2019, post were fairly regular, but the second half of the year I has less time to spend on the blog. Overall, the blog didn’t do bad last year. We got almost 30% more visitors and over 17% more page views and all this without any advertisements. We started the year with building an army and we made it through the Impel Trading Cards from #75 to #86. I hope you all did enjoy the posts and will be back for what’s to come.

We will be getting back on track with the Impel Trading Cards, continuing where we left off with the Special Missions’ cover themed cards. I can say now, that some really good stories are still coming. Off course, I’ll drop some random post in now and again to show off some new gear, book, comic or toy or whatever I feel like sharing and is remotely connected to G.I.Joe.

Now as for 2020, I’m hopeful that we will get a good new movie focusing on Snake Eyes. The man already has 68 figure releases, so this year will be memorable when figure 69 is dropped. And then probably some other versions as well, getting his total well above 70. I’m also hoping that we’ll get the new toys over here as well, though I still have a lot of vintage Joe to collect, so I’ll be busy either way. And besides, the world has gotten smaller over the years, so if the shipping costs aren’t skyrocketing, I’ll be a happy shopper across the globe.

As for the blog, I’m organizing and planning my time so I will have one evening each week to do some writing. I still have an idea for a story that I’d like to get out on the web someday (maybe even in print if there is interest), so that will be taking of too this year and of course writing blog posts. Related to that, I’m in the market for a new laptop/tablet hybrid for my writing as well. A Remarkable looks great, but in my opinion is overpriced. Same goes for Apple, although the new iPads are better affordable now. I’m kind off locked into Microsoft though (I work for a Certified Gold Partner) and have been using their programs for years now. I’m using OneNote to prepare the blog posts and do some research. For my story – it’s to early to call it a novel(la) – I went ahead and got a license for Scrivener. I had looked at the program a while back, but had been putting it off because I didn’t have the time to write. I pulled the trigger on getting it, thinking that on some level, having the license will give me more incentive to really start writing. I’m currently still working on my 8 year old HP Elitebook 8760w. I’ve used this one for work first and then later for personal use. It may be a laptop in name, but due to the size and weight, it’s not that practical. So, I’m looking at the new Surface Pro as my next personal laptop/hybrid.

Well, now that is out of the way. Let’s focus back on G.I.Joe. 2020 will be a good year. I’m pretty sure of that. The club may be gone (for now?), but the community is very much alive and kicking with Facebook groups, podcasts, YouTube and I hope this blog as well.

Let me end by thanking all of you for your support and views, likes and messages. I hope you and your family, friends and loved ones have a wonderful year, filled with happiness, good health, love, friendship and G.I.Joe!

YoJoe and Happy Collecting!

Jealous Hulk steals G.I.Joe title (*)

Jealous of Sgt. Slaughter landing a job with the Joes, Hulk Hogan stars in a movie with this exact same title as a G.I. Joe story in 1989. That is 2 years after this story was released. On another note, today we will be having absolutely no limits or restrictions as far as the levels and nature of the hostilities and offense. We’ll be taking to an especially ruthless or vicious manner. Time to get into the story told in Special Missions #4, featuring on the Impel Trading Card #86, No Holds Barred.

(*) Uncomfirmed, but if it’s on the internet, it’s true, so there you have it. Alternate facts 2.0.

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Wild Bill is piloting a PBY transport plane somewhere over the South China Sea. The rest of the team are Leatherneck, Roadblock and Lifeline. The cargo is a captured Cobra Firebat. The plane is under attack by a Hind helicopter of the Oktober Guard. Roadblock and Leatherneck trade shots with the Guard.

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Lifeline insists he is a non-combatant medic and he’s trying to extract the Firebat’s black boxes. The fact that Lifeline doesn’t want to shoot at the Oktober Guard and he is currently failing to extract the black boxes by needing to bypass several anti-tamper devices, is causing Leatherneck to give him a hard time. The plane’s engines get shot and Wild Bill orders everyone to bail out. Leatherneck has a Stinger Missile launcher with him, but couldn’t fire it from within the PBY so once in the air – freefalling – he fires one at the Hind and knocks out the tail rotor, sending it crashing down too.

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The Joes touch down in the middle of the jungle. They find Lifeline caught up in a tree with his parachute. After they cut him down, they move out in the direction of the PBY’s crash site to recover the black boxes. The Oktober Guard – having crash-landed themselves, take off with the same goal in mind. The jungle proves to be treacherous and the Joes need to overcome leeches and get past a tiger. The Oktober Guard have found a trail and use a bend in the path to lay an ambush. The Joes are heading down the same trail when Leatherneck notices the same curve and points out that it would be perfect for an ambush. He catches the smell of the Russian tobacco from Brekhov’s cigarette and the Joes scatter in defense. Both sides exchange fire and Leatherneck gets wounded. Wild Bill and Roadblock keep the Oktober Guard pinned down while Lifeline drags Leatherneck to safety. Lifeline refuses to use Leatherneck’s grenade launcher which leads to more insults by Leatherneck. Wild Bill gets shot too and Roadblock and Lifeline carry the 2 wounded Joes away (including Wild Bill’s hat). Stormavik and Schrage have also been wounded but Brekhov orders them to continue to the crash site as he knows the Joes won’t stop either.

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The Oktober Guard reach the crash site first and Daina climbs on board, her being the lightest. She extracts the black boxes with ease – Lifeline had done all the difficult work before the PBY went down – when the Joes arrive. Another heated exchange is cut short when both teams come under fire from river pirates. The pirates’ leader, Sarawak Sally, keeps them locked up their boat.

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The pirates are forcing other prisoners to fight for their entertainment. The loser of the latest fight is shot by Sarawak Sally. The Joes and the Oktober Guard are then brought up to the deck. Each side will have to draw straws to see who gets to fight for their teams freedom. Horrorshow makes a nasty comment and Sally wants to make sure that he gets the shortest straw.

For the Joes, Lifeline drew the short straw. He argues that he is a non-combattant, but Horrorshow starts attacking. Lifeline deflects him every time, until Horrorshow crashes into a mast and remains unconscious. Wild Bill explains that Lifeline is a black belt in Aikido – “a Zen martial art with no offensive moves. The purpose is to redirect violent energy away from oneself…”

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Sarawak Sally congratulates Lifeline and wants to execute Horrorshow. Lifeline steps in and refuses to let her kill him. She calls him greedy, asking for not only his own life, but that of his team and the lives of the Oktober Guard. She asks if he wants the black boxes as well. He replies that they are not worth more bloodshed. He tells her the boxes contain Cobra secrets and that they would be rewarded if the pirates bring the boxes back to the Cobra embassy, much to the outrage of Leatherneck. Lifeline stands his ground and responds that if he didn’t tell Sally the truth, the Oktober Guard’s blood would be on his hands. Sarawak Sally laughs and tells them they are all free to go because one of them has the courage of his convictions. She drops the boxes in the river as an offering to the river spirits and the ships sail away.

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I have to admit, I find this a bit of an odd story. The plot and the battle scenes are great, but the River pirates are a bit too much. I get that you’d need a third party involved to show respect for Lifeline’s beliefs as a medic, but they’re just that little bit over the top. Also, for the fourth time in a row, we don’t really get any Cobras. Sure, it’s their Firebat and secrets the plot runs with, but they don’t seem to be chasing the Joes. Also, black boxes aren’t really black and they are designed to survive plane crashes on land and water, so the Joes or the Guard could just return to the river later and search for the boxes. They also send out a signal, so locating them in the river should be fairly easy. As Special Missions go, this one doesn’t do it justice. There are other stories that are far more compelling and – well – just better.

I do have to point out that I also share Lifeline’s conviction of non-combat. I do believe that violence is never the answer and there are always better solutions to be found. Compromise is underrated. I don’t approve of the pointless bickering and discussing in politics, but I do believe that true solutions can only be found by analyzing the issue, taking account of all the viewpoints and finding a solution that can be agreed on by all involved parties. The survival of the fittest has been turned around to the survival of the best armed and that is never a good thing. A few weeks ago, a new war was avoided by not attacking Iran. I hope this sets a tone for the international politics going forward because the only people getting hurt by war and terrorism are the men, women and children like us. The people living their lives, working, paying taxes, enjoying the arts, playing games, … It’s never the politicians or the rich, they only profit from it. All I am saying, is give peace a chance. I get it, strange to come from someone who writes about a toy line, comic book series and all things related, that is focused on war, terrorism and conflict. Don’t get me wrong, I love G.I.Joe and I like watching action movies and reading war stories and so on, but think about it. Stories were once told by professional storytellers to give the illiterate people a chance to learn about something. The stories would have morals and meaning and would educate or inform the listeners. If we take this concept into the modern world, shouldn’t we consider all these war stories and violence on tv, in books and movies as a warning about how ugly conflict is? Imagine there is no war, we wouldn’t need to spend billions on weapons and defenses. The money saved would enable the hungry to be fed, the homeless to get sheltered, we – the human race that is – would become better, focusing on ourselves as humans rather than on gods, kings or countries. Bettering ourselves rather than finding new ways to kill the planet and other people. Maybe it’s utopian, maybe it’s visionary, maybe it’s hope. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but let me have this dream. Now, I may have used quite a lot of references in this little rant, but let me end with a quote of a man with a vision.

The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them. — G. Roddenberry

Right, now, let’s get back into it with the character spotlight on this card, Lifeline. As a kid, I was part of the Red Cross Youth and so it’s no big surprise that the Joe’s medic would be one of my favorites. At the time I got my Lifeline figure, I didn’t know that there had been another medic (Doc) and seeing that he came with a lot of accessories made him an instant draft whenever I went into battle against Cobra in another backyard battle. There have been 8 figure releases of Lifeline over the years, starting with the v1 in 1986. Now, immediately upon looking at the figure and his accessories, you’ll notice something strange. He has a molded gun on his left leg and he came with a silver gun – supposedly this one came from the holster on his chest. WTF Hasbro!? Seriously, Mr. Hama goes to the trouble of creating file cards and character depth and the toy manufacturer just adds some guns for fun. Maybe it’s supposed to be a BB-gun or a flare gun. Or it’s one of those novelty lighters… but then again, smoking kills so that would also send a wrong message.

Anyway, the same mold has been used to create the Tiger Force version in 1988 and the v3 in 1991 (mail-in offer with the original colors but different legs because Kellogg’s didn’t want guns on the figure).

In 1994 and 2002 we get different versions altogether. As part of the Battle Force, Lifeline got a new design with a red bomber jack and white pants and helmet with red details. His accessories were bright neon yellow. That would stick out in a crowd. No guns this time except for a flare gun (they got their act together now). He also got a knife, flashlight, case and grappling hook. The 2002 figure is a repaint of the v4 with a new head, no helmet this time, unshaven and with black accessories.

Then in 2004 we get Sgt. Lifeline (I’m beginning to see a pattern here, Hasbro really should hire someone to take care of their trademarks.) The Anti-Venom Task Force was a Toys ‘R US exclusive set that also featured Barricade, Charbroil, Duke, Mutt and Roadblock. Lifeline here is a repaint of Stretcher (that other medic the Joes got in 1990). He even comes with that flashy looking sled contraption. The filecard does depict him as we know him with the red helmet and green glasses.

From 2010, we get Edwin ‘Lifeline’ Steen. This figure was part of the Z-Force 3-pack alongside Calvin ‘Jammer’ Mondale and Rico ‘Gaucho’ Gonzalles, made for the 2010 International G.I.Joe Convention of the Official Collector’s Club. It was -again- a repaint of the v4 including the head. He did finally inherit Doc’s stretcher though.

The next year the v7 of Lifeline is an homage to the original figure, taking back to the red & white color scheme. Accessories galore, including an IV drip, a new stretcher, shock pads, removable helmet, medic pack, syringe,  … It did come with a pistol (could still be a flare gun), but also came with a rifle. That one is just unexplainable.

Finally in 2015, we get a new version of the Tiger Force Lifeline as part of the

Tiger Force vs. Iron Grenadiers 2015 Joecon Exclusive boxset. The Springfield edition. The set also included Sgt. Stalker, Dial-Tone, Big Brawler, Wreckage, Recondo, General Mayhem, Metal-Head, Undertow Officer, three Iron Anvils and three Undertow figures. Mostly a repaint of the 2010 version, but without the assault rifle.

My absolute favorite will always be the v1, the only one I have in my collection and my only medic…

The story we looked at today, SM#4 No holds barred, is the introduction of the character of Lifeline. He later is part of the team that meddles in the Cobra Civil War and in another Special Mission (#25), we’ll see him again as part of the Tiger Force when they fight the Lower Darklonian Separatist Front in New York.

As I said before, Lifeline was my first medic and having spent some of my childhood as part of the Red Cross Youth, I held him in high regard as part of my team. I never knew the comics as a kid, but when I played with Lifeline, he was a pacifist. Do no harm!

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Since the next few cards will keep on showing (awesome) covers of the Special Missions, it’s no great mystery as to what we’ll be discussing next time. Still, I hope to see you then when we look at an epic battle with a clear difference between good and evil. A bit too clear perhaps, but still a hell of a fight. So, see you later. Keep afloat!

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

Inspired by Pearl Jam and Elton John

I’m still alive and still standing… And still writing. I know it’s been a while since the last post went online and there really is no other excuse other than me not making the time to finish the next post and publish it. But, it will be online soon.

In the meantime, some of the Ultra Pro stuff has arrived, will post something on Instagram later this week. I have a new small Joe in my collection, with real hair. Wanted to get my hands on this before they release some other Joes later this year (Snake-Eyes and Duke according to the rumors). Here’s hoping they throw in a Cobra as well.

In other news, I have bought a new coffee table book. Great read and very nostalgic of the cartoons of my childhood. If you happen to be browsing online, be sure to check this book out. I got my copy from www.bookdepository.com (where I buy most of my books online to be honest, they’re delivery time is a bit slow but the prices are very competitive).

See you again soon and Happy Collecting!

YoJoe!