Within the last week, I finished collecting the 1991 Cobra roster. I almost have the GI Joe side complete, too– I just need that pesky Cloudburst!
While not every figure I have is complete or perfect, 1991 is the only GI Joe year I’ve set out to complete so far. That’s because it’s easily my favorite GI Joe lineup. As a kid, I had a few figures from 1988 and 1989, and even one from 1987. I had a good amount of the 1990 roster, and those figures were excellent, but it was a year full of all new characters. As a kid, I wanted the characters from the Sunbow cartoon and the animated movie.
1991 fulfilled that desire. It gave us Cobra Commander, Hawk, Snake Eyes, Zap, Grunt, Falcon, Rock n Roll, Major Bludd, Flint, Low-Light, Dusty, Mercer, and Sci-Fi. It also gave us fantastic new characters like Heavy Duty, Cesspool, Interrogator, Big Ben, Red Star, and Ozone. The accessories were still good and still specifically made for each character.
To me, it’s the best Joe year of all time. I was only 6 or 7 when I got most of the 91 figures I had as a kid, but it was my first real chance to have versions of the characters I knew. And the accessories were a bit less confusing to a kid than the complicated setups from 1990.
But, in this quick feature, I want to talk about the 1991 Cobra roster. I’m more into the Joe side than the Cobra side, but this month it special– it’s Cobra Convergence 3!
YouTube toy reviewer Hooded Cobra Commander 788 spearheads Cobra Convergence every year, and this time he’s asked bloggers, photographers, and other creators to contribute.
So, this is my humble entry. Let’s take a look at why 1991 was just as much of a banner year for Cobra as it was for GI Joe.
1991 Cobra Roster Overview
In 1991, we got cool, new named Cobra agents like Cesspool, Sky Creeper, and Interrogator. We got great infantry troops (BATs), desert troopers, cold weather troopers, flamethrower troopers, glider commandos, Crimson Guards, and hostile environment troopers. We also got Road Pig.
So, here’s a look at each individual figure, and why each one is special. Some are better than others, but a few are all time classics. Regardless, I think they all have their merits– even Road Pig.
1991 Cobra B.A.T.
B.A.T.s (BATs from here on out, because fuck typing all those periods), are Cobra’s android troopers. Though they’ve been a big part of the Joe mythos since 1986, some older fans hate and resent them. But me? I love them.
As a kid, the 1991 BAT was my default enemy trooper. I’ve never been a huge fan of wanton violence and killing in my media or playtime (if you’ve noticed, very few of my photos depict much violence), so having my heroes take out soulless robot troopers was perfect for me as a kid.
I love the look of this figure. The head and body design are great, and I always love a T-shaped visor or faceplate. The 91 BAT appears robotic and dangerous. It’s different from the first BAT, but there are still enough similarities that you know what it is. I also love the color scheme– neon green and black is my favorite color combo, and that owes a lot to this figure.
The accessories are also tremendous. A regular hand, a grenade launcher hand (that’s actually a laser, because who would be dumb enough to give these stupid robots grenades), and a great spring-fired launcher arm attachment that can store the other hand attachments and be worn as a backpack.
There’s a lot of nostalgia talking here, but this is one of my all time favorite Cobra troops.
Cesspool is one of my favorite Cobra characters, period. He has a great look about him, but the character concept resonates with me, too. What could be more realistic than an amoral CEO who pollutes the planet to make money in the short term, and then blames his own mistakes on environmentalists and protestors?
New named Cobra operatives were in relatively short supply after 1987, but 1991 gave us two of the best we’d ever get in the form of Cesspool and Interrogator.
Cesspool’s costume is relatively subdued, and he can fit in with Cobra characters from the mid 1980s, as well as any figure from the 1990s. He’s one of the few Cobras with a removable helmet, and his chainsaw is an amazing accessory.
Plus, how cool is his head sculpt?
To me, Cesspool is one of the greats– and he’s also far more realistic than Raptor, Crystal Ball, Croc Master, Big Boa, or even Zartan. If you care about that sort of thing. I normally don’t, but it’s a point in Cesspool’s favor.
1991 Cobra Commander
My first Cobra Commander figure was the 1992 Talking Battle Commanders version. That version does a great job presenting his iconic look from the 80s cartoon and comics, so it was a perfect first Cobra Commander toy for any kid.
The 1991 Cobra Commander is nowhere near as iconic.
But, still, it’s a very nice figure. 91 CC features a battle helmet with a full face shield, a blue and black outfit, Cobra symbols, and regal gold accents. This is quite possibly something Cobra Commander would wear, and the figure looks commanding and battle ready. I would have loved it as a kid.
The accessories on this one aren’t amazing– his gun is cool (the black version here is from Mortal Kombat’s Sonya Blade), but the drone launcher isn’t a must-have.
Still, this is a unique and credible update to everyone’s favorite terrorist.
1991 Crimson Guard Immortal
Of all of the figures from 1991, the Crimson Guard Immortal might be the most expensive. This was the last figure I needed to complete my 91 Cobra collection, and it took me more than a year of constant searching to find a reasonable example for under $30. My CGI isn’t 100% complete, and he has some paint wear, but he’s nice enough for my purposes.
There’s a reason this figure is so expensive. It’s a great update to the original Crimson Guard that looks more combat-ready than ceremonial. The CGI is heavily armed, armored, and built like Big Boa’s stunt double. The helmet is wicked and intimidating, and the whole package just screams “a very regal menace.”
The CGI’s accessories are weird, and are almost immaterial to most collectors. This is a magnificent elite trooper, bodyguard, or field operative– no matter what you arm him with.
Plus, you already like this figure. You don’t need me to convince you.
1991 Desert Scorpion
Chances are you already like this figure, too. The 1991 Desert Scorpion is another one that commands high prices. Its admittedly strange accessories are also hard to find, which has given rise to fan reproductions. It’s not quite as pricey as the Crimson Guard Immortal, but it’s expensive enough.
The figure you see pictured above is my childhood Desert Scorpion. It has no accessories, its paint is worn, and its joints are very loose. That’s because it saw a lot of action. And who could blame me for using the figure all the time? It just looks awesome.
The facemask, goggles, cloth head covering, antenna, and bare arms just make for a classic bad guy. I’m not sure I ever used the figure’s accessories, but he was always on the front lines with my BATs and Incinerators. I tended to use the figure as the filecards suggested, as a disgraced Cobra Trooper who needed to prove himself and get out of desert duty. That made him extra dangerous.
And, can you believe this is Cobra’s first and only real desert trooper in the vintage GI Joe line? That alone makes this figure indispensable. He also came out during a year when he had an actual Joe desert trooper, Dusty, to fight. Hasbro didn’t achieve that kind of synergy often.
I begged my Mom for an Incinerator when I saw one on the pegs in 1991. I loved the look of the figure and, for a time, I took him everywhere with me. I took him to my Mom’s dog shows, over to my Grandparents’ house, to daycare, and to the mall. His helmet with face shield, prominent snake symbol, crazy weapon, and dangerous-looking color scheme fit into my ideal version of Cobra. I’m not sure I even really used him as a flamethrower trooper– he was just the tough Cobra soldier GI Joe had to defeat before they could complete their mission.
It’s weird to think that GI Joe had two soldiers who operated such an inhumane and possibly illegal weapon before Cobra even had a flamethrower trooper. Yet Blowtorch and Charbroil finally met their match in the 1991 Incinerators.
It makes sense for Cobra to have a legion of flamethrower specialists, and I don’t think Hasbro could have done any better than the Incinerator. His look is perfect, his flamethrower and backpack are exactly what Destro would design for Cobra, and he fits into any Cobra army.
If any Cobra army builder from 1991 is underrated, it’s Incinerator.
Along with Cesspool, 1991 also gave birth to Interrogator, another one of Cobra’s coolest named operatives. His look is classic Cobra, with the face-obscuring helmet, and a uniform that looks like something an Axis officer might have worn in WW2. His coloring is exceptional, and his signature weapon looks both weird and practical.
So, he’s basically all of Cobra in a nutshell.
Sure, the Battle Copters were pretty lackluster, but that doesn’t mean their pilots were. I think Interrogator can hold his own with any Cobra figure from any year. He was also the subject of one of my earliest reviews.
1991 Major Bludd
The 1991 Major Bludd was part of the Super Sonic Fighters assortment, which means he came with an absurd backpack that made pew-pew noises and had two tiny red lights. In his case, that noisemaker was a huge jetpack, which is kind of cool. His hand weapons, though, leave a lot to be desired.
Here, he’s pictured with a black version of his original rifle. What’s with the handle at the back? What does the gun do? It was released with the Joe Vs. Cobra Moray as a harpoon gun in later years, but here it’s some sort of fancy laser rifle.
Bunk accessories aside, this is a cool look for Major Bludd. The grenades might not make a ton of sense, but they look intimidating and give the figure a ton of visual interest. The head sculpt is also fantastic.
He was a prominent boss in the NES game GI Joe: The Atlantis Factor, so that also put him on a lot of kids’ wish lists. My friend had the figure, and we got a lot of use out of him. It was just nice to have such a cool version of the wacky mercenary poet from the Sunbow cartoon.
A worthy update to one of Cobra’s earliest named characters.
1991 Night Vulture
Night Vultures use hang gliders to perform their duties as scouts and commandos for Cobra. They also look the part– in a different color scheme, these guys could easily pass for a Snake Eyes figure.
Speaking of the colors, a lot of Joe fans really don’t like the 1991 Night Vulture’s bright orange highlights. I don’t mind them, of course, but I do think he would look a bit more stealthy if they replaced the orange with blue or grey.
Still, it’s a striking color scheme on an excellent sculpt. I love the concept of a covert insertion/long range recon specialist who uses a glider. Night Vultures seem sneaky and threatening, and are definitely not something GI Joe encounters on a regular basis. They’re an abnormal threat, and this cool-but-unusual figure fits that bill perfectly.
Now, I just need to find that damn crossbow for less than the cost of a weekend in Monaco.
1991 Road Pig
I’m just going to come out and say it– Road Pig is the weakest figure in the entire 1991 line up. Although I find his color scheme endearing, it’s objectively much worse than the 1988 original. And, without his trademark grenade crossbow and cinder block hammer, the character loses a lot of his charm.
But still, I like Road Pig as he was portrayed in the old Marvel Comics. I also like weird repaints. With his tanning bed skin tone, blue and neon green pants, and orange hair with green highlights, 1991 Road Pig certainly qualifies. It’s awful, but I love how he matches his hair to his clothes and his weapons. I love that he’s somehow even uglier than the original figure. I love his weird orange “flamethrower” and laser rifle.
I don’t think this is anyone’s favorite figure. It’s neither realistic nor useful. But, if anyone can pull off this bizarre neon look, it’s a Dreadnok. 1991 Road Pig is not an essential figure, but he is both wacky and interesting– two qualities that go a long way with me.
1991 Sky Creeper
Sky Creeper is an odd looking figure. He’s wearing bright yellow and greenish blue. His headgear looks like bicycle helmet, and he appears to have goalie pads on his legs. It all seems very ridiculous.
But then you read Sky Creeper’s filecard.
This is a dude who doesn’t love gliders, but he uses them to make money by completing missions for Cobra. He only cares about money, so of course he doesn’t care if his protective gear looks dorky. As long as it gets the job done, he gets the job done. And getting the job done means he makes money.
Could the 1991 Sky Creeper figure look better? Oh, absolutely. But at least his look is unique. And, as portrayed on the filecard, Sky Creeper is an extremely cool Cobra operative. The character makes the figure for me, and I see him as an underrated named Cobra agent who’s full of untapped potential.
1991 Sludge Viper
I’ve already mentioned how the 91 BAT and Incinerator were two of my main Cobra troops as a kid. My third main trooper was the 1991 Sludge Viper. Since I was such a fan of Eco Warriors as a kid, I used him in his intended capacity as a sludge-spewing assault trooper. Since that toxic sludge was so deadly, he was always a huge threat to the Joes– until Flint and Ozone could save their bacon, that is!
(The Eco Warriors are still my favorite GI Joe sub team, by the way. I watched a ton of Captain Planet as a kid, too.)
GI Joe fans take umbrage with Sludge Viper’s yellow and turquoise color scheme, but they generally love the Sub Viper repaint from 2001. It’s a great mold that’s generally appreciated, but a lot of people can’t get past the brighter colors. I can, though. These are hazardous environment troopers and assault troopers. They’re not stealth operatives– they need to be seen by their fellow Cobra soldiers, since no one wants to get covered in toxic sludge.
The Sludge Viper’s helmet design is very cool and gives off strong science fiction vibes, which is probably why I loved it so much as a kid. His armor is detailed and interesting, and he makes a very credible trooper who specializes in biological and chemical warfare. And, let’s be real, those are the most terrifying types of warfare.
1991 Snow Serpent
Since I’m all about being honest, I will say the 1985 Snow Serpent is a very striking and iconic figure. Its accessories are perfect, as is its color scheme. It has a haunting look that’s perfect for a Cobra arctic trooper. But, as a kid, I never knew that figure existed. In fact, the first time I saw its head sculpt was on the 1992 Heli-Viper.
But, I certainly knew about the 1991 Snow Serpent as a kid. Two of my friends owned them, and I was very jealous. And, how could I not be? They had a cool face mask, a missile launcher, a snowboard, and a backpack that held both the missile launcher and the snowboard.
As an adult, I still think they’re fantastic. Their accessories are second-to-none, with the rifle, pistol, and snowboard being highlights. The figure also looks very practical, in a white coat and snowpants trimmed with brown fur. The purple highlights and red goggles really make this Snow Serpent something special, too.
If you think this figure doesn’t come close to the 85 original, I don’t blame you. That’s an incredible figure. But, for me, this guy will always be what I think of when I see the words “Snow Serpent.”
Taken on his own, Snow Serpent v2 is a perfect cold weather operative for Cobra. His colors are realistic, his gear is astounding, and he looks both practical and menacing. This mold’s repaints are all pretty good, as well. This is one of my all-time favorite Cobra army builders.
When the 1991 Toxo-Viper came out, I don’t think I knew he existed. I definitely didn’t know about the original 1988 Toxo-Viper. After all, I already had a Sludge Viper… why would I think Cobra needed additional hazardous environment troopers?
So, does the Sludge Viper make Toxo-Viper v2 redundant? I don’t think so. Toxo-Vipers are hazmat specialists, and work in a support role. The Toxo-Viper designation is also (at least sometimes) given out as a punishment. The Sludge Viper, on the other hand, is a full-on assault trooper who wants to be just where he is.
As a figure, this is a fantastic update to the 1988 Toxo-Viper. The purple and green look great, and the more streamlined, intimidating armor and bodysuit bring Toxie into the 90s. The helmet design is also a personal favorite of mine.
The gear is also pretty good. He comes with the same purple laser pistol and air tanks as the Sludge Viper, and those work nicely for backup weapons. And, because he came out in the Eco Warriors subset, he also gets the same water-squirting tube as the Sludge Viper, albeit in green instead of purple.
My only real problem with the 1991 Toxo-Viper is I can never decide if I like it more than the 1988 Toxo-Viper or not. In my world, they coexist. Problem solved. .
Final Thoughts on the 1991 Cobra Roster
Phew! That was a long one. Thanks for sticking around.
I really wanted to do something special for HCC’s Cobra Convergence 3, and I hope this qualifies. I love everything about the GI Joe figures from 1991, so I figured this was a good first step to professing that love to the world.
The 1991 vehicles, on the other hand? Yeesh.
Anyway, what’s your favorite year for GI Joe figures? Let me know in the comments!