Today we’re taking a look at the Black Major Tiger Force Snake Eyes figure, which is probably more accurately a Tiger Force Invasor figure. There’s a lot to unpack with that.
But, I’ll be honest with you– this article is mostly just an excuse for me to voice my opinions about the 1985 Snake Eyes mold. And, to a lesser extent, my opinions of the wild world of Black Major Snake Eyes repaints.
This isn’t a full review or anything, and I’m also not going to give this figure a rating. I just wanted to get some thoughts out onto the digital page.
1985 Snake Eyes– An Icon, I Guess
Photo Courtesy of Attica Gazette
If you asked GI Joe fans what the most iconic figure from the original ARAH run of the toy line was, most of them would probably vote for 1985 Snake Eyes, the second version of the character. That figure produced the look that’s the “face of the franchise,” no matter how it’s interpreted. The black bodysuit with a few grey highlights, the sword, the uzi, the wolf companion, and the knight visor (which is supposedly actually modeled after some experimental trench helmets from World War I) are basically just what Snake Eyes looks like now.
But I don’t love the figure. Precisely because it doesn’t live up to the look depicted in the cartoon, the comic, and the card art.
The figure itself has those sculpted lips, which totally destroy the look. I understand the sculptors were trying to make the mask more “realistic,” which they also did with figures like Beachhead (another bad sculpting choice), but it makes the figure look much goofier than the character’s portrayals in other media. They completely ruin the look for me.
The figure does look nice in photos sometimes (Credit: Attica Gazette)
Plus, designers for newer iterations have often gone back to those lips as part of the “iconic” design, and it’s mucked up things like Snake Eyes’ costumes in GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra and his appearance in the relaunched Joe vs. Cobra toy line. The lips make him look like a dour Power Ranger. There’s just a world of difference between the figure and how the character was depicted in art and media at the time, and I cannot get over it.
The figure’s body sculpt is also a little soft. As in he looks like a ninja commando chubster. I’m not one to body shame since cool and badass people come in all body types, but it’s not the best look for GI Joe’s premiere sociopathic killing machine.
Really, I think every other single figure in the ARAH line looks way better and cooler than version 2.
Screenshot Courtesy of Yojoe.com
And that’s a huge reason why I’ve never owned the figure. If I’m going to pay over $100 for a common, main line action figure, then I at least want it to be one I’m excited about.
A few years ago, that’s where The Black Major came in.
A Snake Eyes for All Seasons
Over the past two or three years, The Black Major has redone the 85 Snake Eyes mold in almost every color and style you can imagine. And I probably own at least 10 of them. There’s Snow Serpent Snake Eyes, All White Snake Eyes, Glow in the Dark Snake Eyes, Letal Snake Eyes, two slightly different blue Snake Eyes, Iron Grenadier Snake Eyes (which I think I still owe to RTG), and many others. Some of them came in bundles or mystery boxes, and some I sought out on their own.
Basically, The Black Major committed an Illegal Crime and made a bunch of 85 Snake Eyes figures available for a reasonable price. And I went a little nuts.
The first one I bought, though, was the Purple Haze Invasor. He’s basically Sunbow Snake Eyes with a Cobra logo on his chest. All of the early TBM Snake Eyes figures had Cobra logos, in fact. Which was kind of a bummer.
I took all sorts of advice on how to remove the Cobra logo, but I did not wait around for the right advice. I used some “gentle” low strength nail polish remover which, despite doing some minimal damage, did get the job done. For a while.
I really liked the purple TBM used for the figure, and I liked having a fun, jaunty version of Snake Eyes v2. I liked that he was a great stand-in for the Sunbow version of the character. I liked how cool he looked with Shipwreck and piloting a Trouble Bubble. The deep, beautiful purple hue the figure was cast in helped me forget the lips and the mold’s other flaws.
But then I put him back into a tub with other figures. When I pulled him out again for a livestream with GI Joburg’s Cujo, I was horrified.
He didn’t just break around the part where I used the nail polish remover, His entire left arm and neck region exploded, too. I was heartbroken. I still kind of am, as it’s a figure I actually liked and I can’t afford to replace it now.
But there are other Black Major Snakes figures I enjoy, too. I tend to really like the versions that subvert our “gritty ninja commando who only dresses in black” expectations, which is why I liked the purple one so much.
I also enjoyed TBM’s homage to the oddball Funskool Snake Eyes figure:
And, with some slight modifications, I think the BAT-homage Invasor he did turned out pretty nice, too.
There’s one Black Major Snake Eyes figure whose brightness outshines all the rest, though. And that’s the Tiger Force version. Let’s take a look.
Black Major Tiger Force Snake Eyes
First things first– this figure does feature a Cobra logo. I guess it’s actually a Tiger Force Invasor. Okay. Why The Black Major makes so many Cobra Tiger Force figures (and not just Tiger Force-themed uses of Cobra molds without the logo) is beyond me. It might have been a factory thing, or it might just be something that sells well. But a Cobra logo defeats the purpose of a Tiger Force figure, in my eyes.
But after my Purple Haze Snake Eyes fiasco, a friend reached out with another way to remove these Cobra logos– Number 2 Pencil erasers.
I went through 7 new pencils erasing the logo, but I finally got most of it. The figure also had some awkward joints, so I replaced the o-ring and added some clear nail polish while I was at it. After a little work, it performed much better.
The figure is cast in a nice looking yellow-orange plastic with black, gold, and brown highlights. It’s not a perfect match for either American or European Tiger Force figures– it’s somewhere in between. I really like the colors, though. Bright yellow-orange is a perfect way to subvert Snake Eyes’ usual moody look, and the bright plastic helps wash out the detail of the lips, too.
It’s a positively garish figure, which I love. I have all sorts of subdued Snake Eyes figures cast from this 85 mold and many others. I kind of see this figure as being a fun “fuck you” to the kind of fans who insist GI Joe ended in 1986. So I love having this brightly colored weirdo in my collection.
Black Major Tiger Force Snake eyes comes with what all of his Snake Eyes figures come with– a backpack, an uzi, and scimitar, all cast in brown. He also came with a weird version of Timber, which you can see in the photo at the beginning of this section. Since I have so many TBM Snake Eyes figures, I kind of lost track of where I put some of their wolves and uzis. They’re in a bin somewhere, but I’m not sure which one. So you’ll have to cope with seeing the uzi in black in these photos.
But, since this isn’t a proper review, you can deal with some misplaced and mismatched accessories.
The figure looks good with its gear, too.
But there are some problems. Due to a molding issue, the sword doesn’t fit in the backpack clips “the right way.” But, you can just insert it sideways and it stays perfectly in place. That’s not a big deal. The figure does, however, have some trouble holding its accessories. The plastic used for the hands is very hard and the grip is too tight. You can kind of wedge both the uzi and the sword into its hands if you insert them from the top, but it’s a little bit harrowing. I’ve been sure I was going to break this toy multiple times.
This is a nicely done figure but it doesn’t do much, admittedly. You can display or photograph it with your other Tiger Force figures and it will look cool. You can make a squad of Cobra Tiger Force operatives, too, if you’re a certain kind of sicko. But that’s pretty much all it’s good for. I like using it as a normal “no, nothing’s changed about me, why do you ask?” version of Snake Eyes, just because it’s jarring to see the character in such bright colors. But I doubt most people are interested in that.
I’m sure The Black Major released a Snake Eyes figure to suit every person’s individual tastes. There are a lot of them. Some people buy all of them and display them together like designer art toys, which is kind of cool. But that’s not what I want from a GI Joe figure. I want something I can play with and photograph.
And, with a little bit of elbow grease and maintenance, that’s what I got from this figure.
This is nowhere close to being my favorite Snake Eyes figure. The 85 mold will always fall behind the 91, 83, and 89 molds to me. I’m frankly more likely to futz around with or photograph Ninja Force Snake Eyes than I am to do the same with this figure. Hell, this figure isn’t even my favorite Black Major Snake Eyes.
But it’s brightly colored and subversive, and sometimes that’s enough.
If I never own an actual Hasbro 1985 Snake Eyes, I’ll be just fine. Every other ARAH Snake Eyes mold pleases me more. And, if I get a wild hair up my ass and want a version of “the most iconic” Snake Eyes, Black Major’s releases have my back. I’ll just always choose the weird ones over the all-black ones.
Did I ruin your childhood or make you melt some Star Wars figures in a fit of rage? Let me know in the comments!
12 thoughts on “Black Major Tiger Force Snake Eyes”
Give me v3 or v4 any day. The video game made me want v3 the most, but v4 was all we ever saw at stores. I couldn’t agree more of the “lips”, and not to mention the scimitar is my least favorite sword design. Cool to see all your variations though, they are neat
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for stopping by, Robert!
The video games made me want a Snake Eyes, period. I wasn’t aware of v3 until YoJoe.com came around, though. Or at least not aware that it was any different than v2. The differences are easy to see now, but I think I only ever saw v3 on the back of cards in cross sells.
I only ever saw v4 in a store once as a kid– at a KB in the mall. And I think I got Dusty instead, because I was sure I’d see them all again. I was wrong! And when I played Atlantis Factor, I wanted that toy even more.
I kinda like the scimitar, but I tend toward liking weird swords anyway. The big ol’ scimitar that came with Ninja Force Snake Eyes and Scarlett is still a favorite of mine. But I kinda think all of the various Snake Eyes swords are cool in their own way!
Your opinions of this figure are entirely wrong. You see, I was a kid in 1985 and EVERYONE wanted this figure. And, I found him first when I came across a case of 1985 figures on the floor of my local Toys R Us the Friday that spring break began. I managed to call my friends and let them know that I had a Snake Eyes and that ruined their trips to Florida while I got to stay home and play with the greatest toy known to man.
With that malarkey out of the way, my view of this figure is entirely clouded by its importance in my childhood. It was only in recent years that I’ve come to really see the limitations of the mold. For my money, the 1989 Snake Eyes is probably the best. But, I think most people find the Snake Eyes from their childhood is the best. But, this figure will never be replaced due to that nostalgic bent. To me, this is Snake Eyes as I used the 1982 figure as pre-Cobra bad guys since we had 3 of them.
Personally, I don’t get the Tiger Force themed Cobras. But, it seems they are really popular. So, what do I know? The rainbow of the Snake Eyes did kind of exhaust this mold, too. I never got around to getting a desert version (which seems necessary) but the 1997 version and a few of the other oddballs are pretty fun. Sadly, some of my favorite repaints were part of series III, which all have the wonky arms. So, that sucks.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for the comment, Mike. And the laugh!
Having childhood favorites is totally valid, and I can only look at it from someone who never even saw this figure as a child. Ninja Force Storm Shadow is my favorite version because I had him as a kid and he has a great look. But objectively, he is a worse GI Joe figure than v1 and v2 in every way. Still my favorite, though.
I’m not sure what happened with the wonky arms, though. Were they just misassembled or something?
I suspect the mold started to wear out. Which is also a big reason why he retired it. I’ve seen that in the past where parts are good, but start getting wonky as they are used more and more. It’s too bad as Bonecrusher was the highlight of 2020. But, his arms render him kind of useless.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ahhh, okay. I see. Mold degradation is pretty common with Transformers, since they repaint the same toy a billion times, every time. I can see that happening with factory custom Joes, too. I’ve definitely had some wonky arms, anyway. Though all the Snake Eyes releases are so muddled together in my brain that I don’t know wave 2 from wave 3.
Even though I played with GI Joe figures obsessively as a kid, somehow Snake Eyes was never that important to me – I never saw the Ninja Force version, and the rest of them I missed entirely. Of the 80s figures I happened upon, I was more interested in the ones with weird helmets or armor, like Barbecue or the Snow Serpent. I only really learned that V2 Snake Eyes was “THE GUY” by reading ToyFare and so forth later on. The first Snake Eyes I owned was either the Sigma Six version or maybe one from the Joe Vs. Cobra line.
The closest I’ve come to owning an original V2 was getting the 25th Anniversary version of the character – one of two 25th Anniversary figures I still have.
Anyway, I guess I always saw the molded lips not so much as Snake Eyes’ own lips poking through the cloth, but more like the lips on a Power Rangers helmet. In that sense I think they’re not too bad, but absolutely see where you’re coming from. I also like his helmet design because it’s easy to draw – I’d often find myself doodling this particular Snake Eyes in my notebooks. If you can draw a black-garbed dude, a sword, and a visor, you can pretty much draw him.
But on the whole I agree with you. My current vintage Joe collection lacks a Snake Eyes, and if I were to acquire one, I’d almost certainly go for the V3 or V4, or maybe even a reissue of V1 before this one.
Timber is cool, though.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a great comment, Drac!
I think I’ve kinda shared with you how I never had an ARAH-style Snake eyes as a kid, either. The character wasn’t a huge deal to me then. I’ll elaborate more on that in a later article or something, but my experience pretty much mirrors yours. It was through some sort of cultural osmosis in my teen years (and reading more of the Marvel Comics) that I learned Snake Eyes was “THE GUY.”
I think both the version 1 and version 2 25tth Anniversary Snake Eyes figures were very good. The v2 homage especially got the head right– it looked like the comics and file card art.
I have to say I like Sentai suits a lot less when they have the lips, and that holds true for Snake Eyes, too. Though I don’t imagine the designers had any Sentai aspirations when making GI Joe figures in 1985. I could be wrong, of course.
You can’t go wrong with the v1, v3, or v4 molds at all! The Ninja Force version is also very fun if you have the right expectations coming in.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I never had 85 Snakey as a kid. I was born just a tad too late. My childhood Snakey was 89 then 91. (I skipped the t-crotch versions.)
As a young adult, in the early days of the internet (low on cash but full of nostalgia) I bought a complete 85 Snakey. When I got it in the mail, I was crushed. The mold is not good. His head is weirdly bulbous. The mask has lips?! His body is doughy. It is/was not a good representation of Snakey from the cartoon or comics – both of which I adored. All the things you said are true.
Is this heresy in the GI Joe community? Maybe.
But that doesn’t make it less true.
For my money, 89 Snakey is the best mold. He looks like a ninja killer. Not everyone agrees. I understand that. Some folks like t-crotches on their joes. 👀 Even tho Hasbro overused the 89 mold in the 2000s, I’d still love to see TBM make a million colorways out of the 89 mold. Tiger Force included.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for stopping by, Sam!
I like the 89 mold quite a bit. The first repaint of it was actually my first 3.75″ Snake Eyes figure, which is wild. But it came with most of the original’s gear and looked great despite the GI Joe logo on the leg. I have a pretty strong attachment to that mold, even if the 91 is my favorite overall.
It would definitely be cool to see TBM do something with Snake Eyes v3 or v4. You could get a lot of mileage out of both toys.
I’ll give you the alternative perspective. If you were collecting Joes from the 1982 series onward, and had been used to crappy crappy Star Wars figures everywhere in your world for years, 1985 Snake Eyes was the best figure in the line thus far.
Because he was black, and Storm Shadow was bright white. By the way, I always thought of the 1992 blue mail-in version as the Toothpaste Ninja.
But I can understand your problem with the lips. For me, it’s a sports shirt or a slogan t-shirt that ruins a figure.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for the comment!
Mike T kind of has a similar perspective on 85 Snake Eyes. I respect his opinions and experiences, and respect yours, too. They’re not going to change my own opinions on this particular figure, but our childhood experiences and tastes have so much to do with why we like these toys that you have to accept that everyone else’s experiences are just as valid as your own.
Except the anti-neon people. I cannot abide by them.