(Editor’s Note: The photos for today’s post come courtesy of CIAD, aka Erick, the owner and operator of SurveillancePort.com. Erick is a great writer and photographer, but he’s more than that. He’s a pillar of the online GI Joe community. He’s one of the kindest and most supportive people in the fandom, and he’s always reporting on the latest news, giving signal boosts to cool projects, and spotlighting deserving content creators. You can find Erick at his website, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Facebook. Thanks, Erick!)
Since we’re on an Alley Viper kick, I thought we’d take a look at another one. I acquired my first original Hasbro 1989 Alley Viper in 2019 at JoeFest in Augusta, GA. In September of that same year, I grabbed another one at a toy shop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
But those Alley Vipers weren’t my first experience with the 1989 mold. Sometime in late 2017 or early 2018, I acquired some factory custom Alley Vipers made by The Black Major. My first TBM AVs were the versions that homage the 1997 Rage box art/prototype Alley Viper– blue and black.
There was another version I was interested in, though. Online photos made it look like an ‘inverted colors’ version of the 89 Alley Viper, using blue as its primary color and orange as its accent color.
Those figures are the subject of today’s post– The Black Major Urban Assault Trooper, which started its life as a convention exclusive.
Black Major Urban Assault Trooper Background and Details
The Black Major Urban Assault Trooper is a factory custom action figure that uses the original Hasbro 1989 Alley Viper mold. It was initially available as a convention exclusive for the 2017 Dirty South GI Joe Meetup in Longwood, FL. After the convention, the figure was available from various online sellers, mostly through Instagram and eBay.
The Urban Assault Trooper was one of many Black Major Alley Vipers. I believe it was part of the initial assortment, but it was difficult to obtain at first. Because it was only available after its run at the convention, prices were high until several weeks (or months) after the convention ended.
Though the figure was available to people who didn’t attend the 2017 Dirty South GI Joe Meetup, convention attendees did receive an exclusive version. The toy sold at the convention was sold with an exclusive box, designed by JoeRepro. It’s beautiful packaging, as you can see in these photos.
According to Erick, “Dude made killer boxes like the one offered with the AV. So good, in fact, that he got a C&D from Hasbro.”
Here’s another sample of JoeRepro’s excellent work, in the form of a miniature Missile Command Center:
This Dirty South 2017 exclusive was the TBM Alley Viper I was most excited for, since the 89 Hasbro figure seemed unattainable at the time (due to price) and this one was close enough to evoke the original while doing something entirely different. Alley Vipers always look great in blue, too.
I was pretty worried when I first found out it was a convention exclusive, but I eventually bought a couple for normal-ish prices from an Instagram seller. And, since I already knew what to expect from a TBM Alley Viper due to owning the 97 homage, my expectations were set accordingly.
Here’s how the actual toy works out.
Black Major Urban Assault Trooper Quick Review
The Black Major Urban Assault Trooper uses the original Alley Viper mold, including all of its accessories.
Here’s a better look at that gorgeous convention-exclusive packaging:
I didn’t own an 89 Alley Viper until I’d had the Black Major Urban Assault Trooper in my possession for over a year and a half, so I didn’t realize how drastic the color difference was until I had my first Hasbro figure.
Here’s the TBM Urban Assault Trooper with the 89 Alley Viper, along with several of the other “wave one” Black Major Alley Viper releases:
Although I believe this figure is supposed to homage the 89 original, the colors aren’t just a simple inversion. The TBM figure uses a much deeper, darker blue. And, in hand, I was surprised to see that the “orange” is much more of a red shade.
Here’s the figure:
There’s a lot to like about the Urban Assault Trooper. The paint is nice and the molding is done well. It looks sharp and beautiful.
Blue is also a great color for an Alley Viper. Although it doesn’t exactly match the Hasbro 89, 94, 97, or 02 figures, it still looks fantastic with them. It uses something close to a “Cobra blue,” so it fits in well with a wide variety of other official and factory custom Cobra troops, as well.
It is pretty fiddly to pose and play with, though. No one, even good factory custom creators, knows Hasbro’s exact factory specifications for GI Joe figures. That means the legs on these figures are a little bit loose and sometimes wonky. They don’t hold poses quite as well as a Hasbro figure might. But the plastic used is very nice– it feels durable and feels good in-hand, so cheapness and bad materials are not an issue.
If you have steady hands, you might not have any problems with any version of the TBM Alley Viper. My hands are unfortunately pretty shaky, so I have a difficult time putting them in fun poses, and sometimes struggle to even get them to stand up.
Your mileage will vary and, as long as you know the difference between factory custom figures and Hasbro figures, you know what you’re getting into and should be just fine. This is a well-made figure, but it’s a bit frustrating to use for me personally.
Here are the figure’s accessories:
The Urban Assault Trooper comes with a submachine gun, removable visor, shield, and a backpack with a removable grappling hook.
All of the accessories fit on the figure pretty well, and it looks good with them equipped. The hook can pop out of the backpack somewhat easily, but that can be fixed with some glue or poster tac.
As with any version of this mold, the figure holds the SMG much more comfortably in its left hand. The shield also seems to work much better when you position it in an “underhand” fashion instead of overhand. I’ve said it before, but the 89 Alley Viper would be much improved if the shield handle was placed vertically instead of horizontally.
I will say that I was surprised once I got an 89 Hasbro Alley Viper because that much-loved figure has an awkward time interacting with its accessories, and an awkward time posing. The horizontal handle on the shield makes it difficult to get into a lot of poses you might like, and the figure tends to topple over one way or another unless it’s secured on a battle stand, too.
So the awkwardness of the accessories and the figure’s fiddly nature aren’t unique to The Black Major Urban Assault Trooper– they’re shared with the original, as well. But, in this case, they’re amplified a bit.
I asked my friend RTG of Attica Gazette his thoughts on the 89 Alley Viper and one of the Black Major versions he owns, the Python Patrol AV, just to add another perspective into the mix:
“The v1 Alley Viper mold is a fan favourite, but at the same time, it’s got it’s share of issues. They’re not all entirely mold problems, though the visor with nowhere to see through isn’t the hottest. The real problem the v1 Alley had was it’s colouring, not the colours used, but the way they were applied. Blue and Orange go well together, just ask the New York Knicks, Agent Orange’s Living In Darkness album cover or the Edmonton Oilers.
Where the Black Major repaints come in handy was they took an under-utilized mold and gave it some form of rehabilitation, even though at the end of the day the 1993 mold is superior.
The Python Patrol Scheme is always iffy on a Factory Custom. It’s never a match for anything else. Despite the bright pastel green, its a well done figure. The thing that helps it out a lot is that the flak vest on the torso is painted so that it’s detailing is actually shown. The long gloves and separately coloured head also help the figure look a lot more polished than the Hasbro release. While some TBM figures have had worse quality than others, this Alley Viper was surprisingly good. No flailing joints or overly stiff elbows. The visor works well and the full kit of accessories really completes the figure well.“
But these are all likely personal problems. Even with my frustrations, I absolutely love using this figure in photos and displays. One of the few GI Joe displays in my home (I prefer to keep them in easily accessible bins so I can play with and photograph them) is the 1997 Rage accompanied by all of my Alley Vipers. These look great for those purposes. They’re also perfect as crew members for the vehicle itself.
If you have steadier hands than I do, you won’t be too frustrated with this figure. You’ll just appreciate its cool and different look– it’s a new take on the 89 Alley Viper that still fits in with a ton of other AVs.
So, how do I see this figure functioning as an actual Alley Viper? I consider it to represent a generic “heavy Alley Viper,” along with the 89 original and the other Black Major version I own. The 93 and 94 versions represent “medium Alley Vipers,” who are more nimble and less heavily armored, and the 97-and-beyond figures are “light Alley Vipers,” who have even less armor and lighter weapon loadouts.
I don’t use the different color schemes to differentiate between divisions or specialties in the Alley Viper corps. That’s either because my brain hasn’t quite made it that far yet, or because I’m not creative enough. I’m always interested when people come up with elaborate backstories for each trooper variation, but that’s something I seldom do. These are just Alley Vipers wearing slightly different colors.
Since this is a factory custom and not an official Hasbro figure, I’m not going to issue my regular verdict. Instead, I’ll tell you that I think these toys look great, have cool gear, and are well made. But, for me personally, they present a few more obstacles than other GI Joe figures do.
If you like the look of the Black Major Urban Assault Trooper and know what you’re getting into as far as factory customs go, I’d say you should pick one up. As of this writing, there are a few very reasonably priced figures on eBay– and one even has the 2017 Dirty South GI Joe Meetup exclusive box!
Black Major Urban Assault Trooper Comparisons
Just for fun, here are some more comparison photos with the original Hasbro Alley Viper and TBM’s other early AV factory customs.
Closing Thoughts on the Black Major Urban Assault Trooper
Thanks so much to Erick for contributing all of these wonderful photos. And thanks to RTG for his thoughts and photo.
This was a bit of an unconventional review for this website, but you can expect more of that going forward. I was too optimistic. I thought I’d be able to get home one weekend per month to shoot some photos for reviews, but that is no longer the case.
I do have good news, though. A bunch of fantastic and kind people have offered to write some guest content for the site. You’ll get all sorts of different perspectives on GI Joe, Transformers, and other 90s toy lines. I’m really excited to share it all with you and, god willing, we’ll have weekly content until I can start taking photos again.
Thanks for reading, thanks for being here, and thanks for your support.
Anyway, what’s your favorite factory custom figure? What are your factory custom GI Joe experiences? Let me know in the comments!