By Vince Zannelli
Released in the summer of 2009, the Assault on Cobra Island and Defense of Cobra Island 7-packs were e-tailer (online) exclusive action figure sets that Hasbro released in response to demand from collectors to release several popular characters that had not been produced since the inception of the modern era G.I. Joe line in 2007. With the cancelation of wave 13 single carded vintage-style figures, Hasbro signaled a focus shift to the Rise of Cobra live action movie toys. This prompted the production of both Cobra Island sets, one dedicated to Cobra forces and the other to G.I. Joe team members. Many classic characters saw their modern era debut in these boxed sets, as the character selection was largely collector-driven. As a result, the demand for these sets are very high on the secondary market--most notably with the Cobra set since it contains many troop builder figures which ranked high among the wish lists of G.I. Joe collectors.
Code Name: RANGE-VIPER
COBRA WILDERNESS TROOPER
Range-Viper troops are usually committed to long-term operations deep within unfriendly territory, completely cut off from communications or supplies. They have an unusually high tolerance for discomfort, and can survive on a diet of snakes, grubs, roots, berries, nuts, and whatever slow rodents they can catch. They are expected to build their shelters out of indigenous materials, usually rocks and mud, and procure their own ammunition by way of hit and run raids on enemy ammo depots.
"Range-Vipers are favorites of Cobra high command since they are so inexpensive to sustain. Once they're in the field, they don't cost anything to feed, clothe and arm. They don't care who they shoot, as long as they shoot at someone or something. That's why Cobra high command makes sure they stay out in the bush."
Originally part of the 9th series (1990) of the classic G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toy line, Range-Vipers were the main inspiration for the Vipers seen in some of the early combat sequences of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra live action movie and throughout the remainder of the film. They played a major role in the animated series of the early 1990s and were popular troop builders in an era where the Real American Hero toy line was waning with children. Their modern era file card is an identical match to the vintage Range-Viper card, which mentions their high pain tolerance and fearless demeanor on the battlefield. Using the modern era Beach Head's head sculpt and the body of the Cobra Trooper, Range-Vipers now have a removable helmet feature that the vintage figure was missing. Staying true to the vintage accessories, this version of Range-Viper includes: a 2-part grenade launcher, ammo belt, backpack, functioning holster with handgun, a backpack, and a long-distance rifle with bipod.
COBRA C.L.A.W. Pilot
Code Name: AIR VIPER COMMANDO
FILE NAME: Various
MILITARY SPECIALTY: Glider and VTOL Pilot
BIRTHPLACE: Various countries
How does Cobra continually attract talented members willing to risk danger, prison and even death to support the organization's evil goals? Simple: money. The pay and rewards are better than anything a private corporation can offer. That's why skilled pilots join the elite Air Viper Commando force. They start as Air Vipers then those who rise to the top are given advanced training with next-generation aircraft to become commandos. They also have to endure a surgical procedure, which makes them resistant to hypoxia, hyperventilation and other decompression sicknesses that affect pilots above Armstrong's Line (63,000 feet).
"You earn your wings, believe me: Over 1,500 hours logged in flight time, a fixed-wing rating up to four engines, combat experience, and an impeccable security clearance."
This was the third modern era version of the Air Viper/Air Viper Commando figure, with the other two incarnations also arriving in 2009--first with the F.L.A.K. Cannon vs. Cobra C.L.A.W. vehicle set, and then with the Rise of Cobra Night Raven jet. Varying slightly in tone from the version that was included with the C.L.A.W. jet pack accessory, this third version is the most accurate representation of the vintage A Real American Hero figure known as Strato-Viper, the 5th series (1986) Cobra Night Raven pilot. Borrowing from the body of Ace and the arms of Snow Job, Air Viper Commando has a brand new head sculpt (non-removable helmet) and legs. While the vintage Strato-Viper figure came with no accessories, the modern era version includes: removable red and black web gear w/ attached belt, and a gray pistol.
Code Name: NIGHT CREEPER
Night Creepers are ninja mercenaries who work for Cobra Commander, specializing in espionage and covert intelligence. They have a reputation as cunning manipulators who are experts in at least five martial arts forms, and they have a predilection for advanced electronic stealth and infiltration technology. Moving with the silence of ninjas and equipped with their high-tech espionage gear, they are almost impossible to catch - because you'll never know they were ever anywhere near you.
"We move like shadows on a moonless night, enhanced by the elegant sophistication of electronic devices that shut down layers of protective technology and leave us a clear path to our goal."
A spectacular vintage figure from the 9th series (1990) of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero action figures, the modern era Night Creeper ninja figure does not disappoint. Hasbro improved upon this underused character by giving the modern era version the body of Snake Eyes with the arms of Flint, along with a newly sculpted head and pair of legs thus creating the quintessential Night Creeper troop builder. Not only is there a removable hood, but the gray body armor can also be easily removed and used by any other figure that has a similar modern era body sculpt. Staying true to the vintage accessories, fans were treated to recast molds of the same weapons from 1990, including: a curved blade ninja sword, maroon backpack with functional open sheath side mount for the sword, and a two-tone multi-arrow crossbow.
Code Name: ALLEY-VIPER
COBRA URBAN ASSAULT TROOPER
Alley-Vipers are urban assault specialists. They utilize tactics and equipment similar to those used by police S.W.A.T. units in cases of rioting, crowd control and heavily armed attackers. But the Alley-Vipers use them to instigate chaos and spearhead assaults rather than contain them. They are equipped with heavy body armor, advanced night optics, covert observation gear and an arsenal of weapons. Masters of brute force and diabolical treachery, Alley-Vipers use any means necessary to achieve their objectives. To graduate from their training program, they are required to survive a full burst of machine gun fire across their frontal body armor, execute a thirty foot jump onto concrete with full combat load and run down a hundred meter gas-filled corridor without a gas mask.
"When you see us coming, you have three choices: run, fight or surrender. If you run, we'll hunt you. If you fight, we'll crush you. If you surrender, we'll make you wish you'd never been born."
Another stellar modern era troop builder figure from yesteryear, the vintage Alley-Viper debuted in the 8th series (1989) of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toy line. While many collectors thought it nearly impossible to improve upon the classic '89 release, Hasbro hit a home-run with the upgrades they included this time around. Now with a two-part removable helmet, Alley Viper can be completely stripped down of his body armor and riot gear. Even their file card has been modified to make the point that these urban terrorists are not interested in quelling inner-city disputes, but rather can be found as the catalysts of such calamities. Modern era Alley-Vipers are comprised of the body and legs of Snake eyes, but the arms and head are brand new sculpts. Though the bright orange and blue color scheme is a strong nostalgic selling point, the accessories are easily considered to be the biggest draw. Included are: two knives, Alley Viper's infamous shield and removable facemask, a removable helmet, a newly issued mold of the vintage snub-nosed machine gun, removable body armor, backpack, a nightstick, and a grappling gun (which was permanently molded to the backpack of the vintage '89 figure).
Code Name: LAMPREY
AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT TROOPER
FILE NAME: Various
PRIMARY MILITARY SPECIALTY: Amphibious Assault Trooper
SECONDARY MILITARY SPECIALTY: Pilot
Lampreys defend the Cobra organization's strategic coastal and island facilities. They are hand picked, highly trained and formidably equipped to act as the ultimate protection system. To qualify for this elite amphibious group, a candidate must have completed the rigorous Cobra Eel training and been operational for at least one year. Adept in all marine environments from tropical waters to Arctic seas, Lamprey troopers are the first-class divers, swimmers, and underwater demolitions specialists. They act with precision and speed in combat, and like a school of hungry piranhas, they attack the enemy with the voracious determination to subdue and destroy.
"You always have to be at the top of your game in any nautical environment. Make one bad choice or stupid move, and you're fish food. The ocean takes no prisoners, and neither do we."
First released in the 4th series (1985) of the vintage G.I. Joe line, the original Lamprey was the exclusive driver packaged with the Cobra Moray Hydrofoil attack boat. The colors of the modern era version are somewhat muted from his vintage counterpart, but the inclusion of a blue transparent visor added a level of personification that the first release did not offer. As young G.I. Joe fans, many may have wondered what sort of facial detail the Lamprey figure had under his bulky helmet; now 24 years later, we can finally see what Hasbro had intended these evil mariners to look like. While not a striking figure, the incorporation of Alpine's body with the limbs of Snow Job do make for a surprisingly versatile amphibious assault trooper. Ultimately, it is the new head sculpt that is the focal point of this figure. Lampreys' accessories include: removable blue vest/webgear, a removable clear blue facemask, a detachable air tank with hoses, a gray pistol, and a revised mold of the vintage Lampreys' silver machine gun.
Code Name: COBRA B.A.T.
COBRA ANDROID TROOPER
These mechanized troopers are built en masse to create an endless supply of "fire and forget" soldiers: combat machines sent into battle that keep fighting until the enemy reduces them to scrap metal. They go in first to wear down G.I. Joe forces, allowing Cobra Troopers and Cobra Vipers to come in later and conclude the battle with a decisive victory for the snakeheads. They can be fitted with different weapons (many designed by Dr. Mindbender), such as canisters containing mutant creeping vines that, when released, grow instantly to ensnare people and release sleeping gas. With the G.I. Joe team incapacitated, Cobra Troopers are free to saunter in and get down to business.
"They're a bunch of computerized tin cans with guns, but they'll do a lot of damage before you can reduce enough of them to smoking piles of circuits."
What has arguably become Dr. Mindbender's greatest battlefield legacy, the creation of the Battle Android Troopers (B.A.T.) have impeded the Joes' efforts to thwart Cobra attacks worldwide. First made available as part of the 5th series (1986) of the classic G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toy line, the vintage figure was an instant success with kids. Never before had G.I. Joe faced such a formidable infantry opponent that lacked most basic human weaknesses. There are several improvements over the '86 Hasbro offering, including alternate heads and chest coverings for a battle-damaged look, and fully removable left and right hands (only one could be removed from the vintage figure). However, the vintage interchangeable forearm accessories were undoubtedly the focal point of playability with this figure...surprisingly, they are lacking from this Cobra Island version. The revised head sculpt of the modern era B.A.T. is more narrow and proportionate to the figure's body, and the canister backpack is an appropriate addition considering the history of B.A.T.s and their use of chemical warfare in battle. The entire body of B.A.T. is taken from the earlier single-carded release from 2008, and their accessories include: 1 battle-damaged head, 1 clean head, 1 battle-damaged chestplate, 1 clean chestplate, 2 removable hands, a removable yellow belt, canister storage backpack, a handgun, a gray machine gun, and a purple bendy vine accessory.
Code Name: DR. MINDBENDER
MASTER OF MIND CONTROL
FILE NAME: Classified
PRIMARY MILITARY SPECIALTY: Mind Control
SECONDARY MILITARY SPECIALTY: Experimental Systems
At one time, Dr. Mindbender was an excellent orthodontist and a kind, honest man. He began tinkering with an electromagnetic brainwave device as a means of relieving dental pain. The good doctor tried his invention on himself with tragic results. His personality underwent a complete conversion, changing him from a caring, conscientious doctor to a hateful, deceitful and vain man. He abandoned his practice and devoted himself to perfecting brain-scrambling equipment to alter or control his subjects, reducing even the most strong-willed individual to a mindless, cowering shell.
"Some think I'm mad. They do not recognize pure genius when they encounter it, nor do they realize how pathetic their lives are. With my devices, I can release them from indecision and doubt. And anyone who stands in my way will fall."
The most highly anticipated figure in the Defense of Cobra Island 7-pack, Dr. Mindbender was included at the last possible moment due to a wave of insurmountable fan support. Originally released as pasrt of the 5th series (1986) of the Real American Hero toy line, the good-doctor-turned-evil saw an incredible amount of screen time in the classic G.I. Joe cartoon and comic books of the 1980s, so much so that he was given a small but important cameo appearance in 2009's live action G.I. Joe movie. His release in this boxed set completes the modern era Cobra Command figures. Credited with the creation of the Cobra Emperor Serpentor and the Cobra Battle Android Troopers (B.A.T.s), Dr. Mindbender has been referred to as "The Interrogator" (in Serpentor's file card) and even "Dr. Brainwave" in his early appearances in Marvel Comics. The modern era version of the Cobra Doctor kept the same general appearance of the 1986 release, and included some of his classic accessories while others were notably absent, including his power generator pack, black connector hose, and white pistol. His trademark monacle is still present over his right eye, as is his long black Cobra cape with silver sigil emblazoned on the reverse side. Dr. Mindbender uses the body of Gung Ho, Viper's legs, and the arms of Tomax/Xamot. His head is entirely new and bears a vague resemblance to the vintage figure. His accessories include: black cape w/ Cobra logo, removable web gear, and electro-prod weapon.