Today I’m joined by my friend Nekoman, purveyor of the Viper Pit. If you’re not following his work, you should be. He takes some of the best GI Joe photos (and toy photos in general) around, and his reviews are perfect blasts of fun, nostalgia, and insight. He’s one of my favorite people in the online action figure community. You can also find him on Instagram and Twitter.
He suggested today’s collaborative review, which I’m very excited about. Today we’re taking a look at the 1992 GI Joe Headquarters, which has an exalted place in both of our hearts.
Nekoman also took every single photo featured in today’s review, which should earn him a hero’s wage. But this is the internet, so that really just means this review will be stolen by some aggregator site like ToyFarts.ru so they can make money off of Cialis ads.
But really, every single one of you owes Nekoman a Shasta Cola. And I owe him upwards of three Shasta Colas, which I will never financially recover from.
On with the review!
1992 GI Joe Headquarters Review
Nekoman: There’s something very telling about where GI Joe was in ‘92, along with Hasbro’s expectations for the brand that can be seen from the GI Joe Headquarters released that year. For an 80‘s toy line running in it’s tenth straight year, this was a pretty impressive release. A few other very large vehicles and playsets of similar size were released in the years around it, most notably Armor-Bot in the following year. Still, this stands out to me as the last, prominent GI Joe playset released in ARAH, and it’s a mostly good one too.
I was not yet born in 1992, and I only got to experience the Headquarters through my brother’s GI Joe collection. With that in mind, you can imagine I didn’t get to live much of GI Joe’s glory days as a kid. That’s important, because I think part of the reason why I took such an interest in a bunch of toys mostly owned by my brother, was because of this playset. It was massive, it stood out, and it was a lot of fun for a kid to play with. Many times I felt motivated to play with GI Joes just because of how much I liked using them with this Headquarters. Were it not for that, I’m really not sure how much I’d have liked GI Joe back then. What was your childhood experience with the Headquarters, DF?
Dustin: I got the 1992 GI Joe Headquarters on Christmas that year, if memory serves me. It instantly became the centerpiece of my GI Joe world. Finally, my team had somewhere to hang out. And something to defend against Cobra. Before the HQ, the Cobra BUGG was pretty much what all of my adventures centered around.
Image Courtesy of YoJoe.com
1992 was a good year for GI Joe, and the last year every figure came with its own unique accessories. It gave kids great (and sometimes iconic) versions of Duke, Hawk, Stalker, Shockwave, Mutt, Roadblock, Storm Shadow, Wet-Suit, Cobra Commander, and Destro. New characters like Slice, Dice, Big Bear, Barricade, and Overkill were welcome, too. Though it’s not my favorite GI Joe year (1991 is), I think 1992 was the most exciting year for me as a kid, and the HQ was a big part of why.
We can dig deeper into individual features and how they work later, but I want to know– what enchanted you about GI Joe headquarters as a kid, other than its size? Why was it the thing you picked out from your brother’s collection?
Nekoman: There were a few things about it. One thing was that I had acquired my own collection of Joes from ‘93 and ‘94, so naturally I went exploring his collection of vehicles and playsets. The headquarters was the only dedicated GI Joe playset he had, and it was a lot more interesting to me than, say, the Battle Wagon. I never really found oversized trucks or large aircraft to be very fun to play with, but stationary playsets lent themselves more to the figures. Especially since most of my personal Joe collection consisted of Armor Tech and Ninja Force figures; the former not really fitting well into traditional vehicles.
Another thing I liked was how elaborate it was compared to other toys that were out at retail at the time. I really, really liked playsets as a kid, but by the mid-to-late 90‘s, those were starting to become more scarce. Heck, most of the super-cool playsets I know of are mostly 80‘s items, when a decent sized playset was more of a requisite feature for a toy line. In our collection, the only thing even mildly comparable to the headquarters was the Batcave Command Center playset from Batman Returns, which was another toy of his. Meanwhile, there was nothing pertaining to my interest as large and detailed as the GI Joe Headquarters that you could buy. So it had a unique presence in the house, and I think that always attracted me to it.
Besides that, it was just a really fun item. Because it folded up so nicely, it was easy to get in and out of storage. It was big enough too, that a lot of the time me and my brother would use it together, but could still choose to play separately if we wanted. I recall being fairly obsessed with it’s searchlight, and I brought it out to play with that every single time there was a blackout. The very small prison was another major focal point, and was usually where Cobra Commander, Destro, and sometimes Chun-Li would live during my play times.
Dustin: I think you hit the nail directly on the head as far as a lot of the 92 HQ’s appeal goes– it was really easy to break it down, fold it up, put it away, and then break it out again. It would easily fit in a closet or under a bed. It interacted perfectly with most figures in the line, regardless of their sub line or gimmick, and it had a ton of features.
I had a couple other playsets during childhood. Most notably the 1989 Toy Biz Batcave. It was wrecked and missing pieces within a month and became a shell of its former self under my care. I still played with it all the time anyway, of course. With the GI Joe Headquarters, though, everything was fine. I maybe lost a couple of missiles or whatever, but it was always great. Especially compared to other 90s playsets, which often did not live up to their 80s counterparts, as you said.
The HQ also inspired my imagination. Especially the jail cell and searchlight, as you also noted. I constantly had new ideas for what to do with the GI Joe HQ and it never got boring. In fact, I don’t think I ever got through all of the play scenarios I had in my head before I lost it. It had seemingly endless possibilities within its plastic walls.
But let’s get down to brass tacks here. Nekoman, can you outline the various sections of the HQ and what they include?
Nekoman: Depending on how you count them, the GI Joe Headquarters has 5 to 6 main areas, which includes:
- The front perimeter
- Multi-utility vehicle and weapons service bay
- Control area
- Cell block area
- Tower/Lookout deck
And each of these areas are packed with gimmicks:
- 3 modular small turrets
- “Eliminator” cannon, which can be inserted in two places, or stand on it’s own
- Mega-flow nozzle and hose (Because economy-flow didn’t cut it!)
- Exploding armor panel on the prison cell
- Functioning tow-hook
- Working elevator
- Weapon/Missile Storage
- Opening door
- Exploding tower action
- Electronic searchlight and 8 sounds
- American flag that flies proudly over the headquarters
And probably some other element I’m forgetting or haven’t realized to mention. It’s a fairly modular playset, allowing you to freely move a few things like the smaller turrets to various parts of the set, or even toss them on an included tripod, so you can use them freely apart from the main HQ.
I’ve gotta be fair though, some of these gimmicks work better than others, and a few of them I wasn’t even aware of until I was an adult. The exploding parts come across as a detriment to me, and generally seem to harm the overall playset. The orange strut blows off the main tower, and turns over the green platform at the top. It seems like a pretty lame way to break a few figures, and without the strut, the top lookout is virtually unusable.
The prison wall is a little more forgivable. I dislike the big orange panel that looks out of place while intact, but that part of the playset looks fine without it too. It disappeared somewhere as a kid, but I always thought the empty area behind the cell just looked like a window. The scale of that is not too unreasonable when you examine the tiny baby-bed inside the cell, which no figure could lay on.
As a kid, I always thought the control area/computer room had a lot less going on than the cell block, though as an adult, I tend to find it somewhat more useful. The big orange computer is a little hard to take seriously, but that’s part of why it compliments so many of the figures from that era so well. There’s a spot where you can place one of the turrets, and that’s it. It’s a nice and open area with just enough going on to keep it interesting.
The vehicle utility bay comes across to me as one of the weaker parts of the playset, since there’s not much going on here besides the fuel pump and one odd computer someone can stand at. I guess you could count the crane as a part of it, but it’s not very impressive either. The fuel pump is pretty neat, though a little odd in it’s own right. I found it in a bag of parts a while back and thought for sure that it was put together backwards, but apparently the flanged part does go closer to the hose. There’s this brown part where you can mount the Eliminator cannon in a different position. I like some of the details, but the purpose of this part isn’t very clear.
The front perimeter area is simple, but also one of my favorite parts. The playset looks much fuller from the outside, and the deployable perimeter/storage tray (The box calls it that. I can’t really think of what you’d store there though…) has some really nice details of it’s own. This part also has a mounting port for the big Eliminator cannon, which is pretty neat. The spaciousness of this area is another thing I like, compared to the part around the tower which is pretty cramped.
I can appreciate the elevator a lot too. It’s very awkward, with a dangerously small platform and guard-rail, but that’s something an adult would tend to think about. When I was a kid, this part was super fun and Joes would ride up and down it while having gunfights. I don’t really know why elevators are so cool when you’re a kid, but they are.
The Lookout deck at the top of the playset is pretty nice. You can rearrange what guns go up here, and use either of the two small green turrets, or the missile launchers in a few places. It’s another part of the playset that features some much needed open space, but I feel there’s a bit of a missed opportunity for a helipad here. The playset could’ve done a bit more if you could land a Battle Copter or the Desert Apache up here, but, such is not the case.
That sums up it’s features, though there’s a few gimmicks I probably overlooked a bit. What’s your assessment of it?
Dustin: That’s a VERY comprehensive rundown that brings back so many good memories of this playset. I don’t currently own it, but it’s tied to so many happy childhood moments that even reading about the details of each part brings a smile to my face.
As a kid, I was most baffled by that brown “vehicle bay.” I don’t think I ever used the fuel pump or used it with a vehicle. I did, however, make good use of that computer console. I loved computer consoles, and that was a “special” one that could either hack into Cobra operations or controlled certain secret functions of the base.
Speaking of computer consoles, the command center got a lot of play from me. The orange never bothered me at the time, and I doubt it would now. This is where the Joe team would have meetings, plan missions, or defend the base.
I really liked the modular missile launchers, and I liked that most of the missiles were interchangeable between them. I also liked that there was plenty of easy missile storage, which prevented them from getting lost so easily. I never used too many spring loaded launchers as a kid, but I used the heck out of those. The one that “explodes” when a panel is hit was a particular favorite. I also enjoyed finding different configurations for them.
As you mentioned, I loved the spotlight, too. I actually had my mom yell at me many times because the sound box that came along with it was so damn loud. I think she regretted buying me this toy several times.
I liked the tower, too. Even the exploding support. I had tons of fun using the elevator to get different Joes up to it, and them taking firing positions on the different levels of the tower.
My favorite part was the jail cell, though. You’re right that the bed is tiny, but it has a bed AND a sink. I didn’t always use it as a jail cell, either. I sometimes used it as rotating quarters for the Joes serving at HQ. I always liked to imagine and play out different scenarios that took place in between missions, and that was as close to living quarters as I ever got for my Joe team. In fact, the HQ as a whole provided a ton of between missions fun. Plotting, planning, healing, drama, you name it.
I like the pull out front area, too. It has such cool details. A fun little note– I didn’t realize that the rotary missile launcher (which is very cool) could plug in to the front entrance for a very long time after owning the toy. I thought it just belonged in the vehicle bay, which made it odd to me. Maybe I didn’t read the instructions well enough.
Also, this playset came with a metric assload of green missiles. Someone had to say it.
Anything you want to add before we issue our final verdicts? Do any strong memories stand out in your mind?
Nekoman: As far as memories go, I think the thing that leaves the strongest impression on me is how long I’ve looked for all of it’s parts. When I started collecting 25th Anniversary and lingering Valor vs Venom figures back in ‘07, the first thing I did was get this playset out and start fiddling with it again. Back then, it was missing practically everything that wasn’t attached by pins. The parts were all at my house, but they were scattered across storage containers worse than the Dragon Balls after you’re done making a wish.
To this day, 14 years later, I’ve still not found everything. Still, every attempt to organize the storage room where all of my brother’s childhood stuff is, is usually marked by finding some piece of the playset. Putting that much effort into organizing and finding all of it’s parts I think has made it seem more special to me, in comparison to just buying something. Hopefully someday soon I’ll find the last pieces, wherever they are.
I also really enjoyed using it in photos when I started making diorama-shots around ‘09. My teenage brain from back then thought it would look fantastic, but some of these old photos look pretty embarrassing now. It’s a sort of embarrassment I embrace though, because I can still remember how much fun I had doing it. I can’t go back to the mentalities I had back then, but I can always remember those thoughts and feelings, especially as I change with age.
Nekoman’s Verdict: The ‘92 HQ is an excellent playset, and it’s in someways the last of it’s kind. Objectively, I don’t think it’s the best playset ever made. Parts of it are oddly cramped, while others are hurt by the focus on exploding parts. Regardless, there’s a childlike element that allows for these flaws to be overlooked in favor of the solid and entertaining gimmicks. It does everything it’s supposed to, and as a display piece, it provides a solid contemporary environment for 90‘s figures. For that reason, I recommend it.
Dustin’s Verdict: Though some fans may bemoan the 1992 GI Joe Headquarters for not being as realistic or cohesive as the 83 HQ, I think it’s brilliant in its own right. It doesn’t have the same level of interaction with the vehicles from the era and it has some bright orange, but it’s FUN. It’s also everything a GI Joe HQ needs to be, and it’s absolutely packed full of features. It stores easily, too. It’s great for photos, display, or just fooling around with. In my book, it’s Highly Recommended.
Thanks for joining us! And a huge thanks to Nekoman for suggesting this review, taking a ton of amazing photos, and making the whole process a blast.
So, what do you think of the 1992 GI Joe Headquarters? How does it rank in the pantheon of GI Joe playsets? For me, it’s probably the best one.
Let us know what you think in the comments!