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
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.
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.
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!