1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper Review

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

Last Sunday, my friend Mike T. (and a few other people) posted photos of various Vipers for the #CobraSunday hashtag on Instagram. These photos inspired me to take a Viper photo, and for some reason I decided on the 1990 Sonic Fighters version of the figure. The photo turned out okay and is embedded somewhere in this review.

But taking the photo made me remember how much this figure means to me and how it was a big part of my childhood. The years of 1990, 1991, and 1992 were my most formative GI Joe years. While I had several figures from before and after that time period, those years marked the time when I felt most aligned with the toy line and felt like it was being made specifically with my tastes in mind. 

There’s no shortage of content on this figure available on the web, but I wanted to throw my hat into the ring. Both because I have some history with the figure and because I think Sonic Fighters have an unearned bad reputation. People make fun of the “oversized backpacks” all the time, but those people likely weren’t kids when these toys came out. They’ve always looked at Sonic Fighters through adult eyes. 

Sonic Fighters and Super Sonic Fighters were a big part of my childhood GI Joe experience, though. They were sometimes the best way to get figures of older, legacy characters and they almost always had interesting colors and accessories. The Viper is no exception. 

No one says the Sonic Fighters Viper is a bad figure, but I do think they unfairly deride the figure’s gimmick and the SF sub-line as a whole. 

Here’s my opinion, based on both my childhood and the present day. 

Making Noise with the 1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

I originally got the Sonic Fighters Viper sometime in 1991, at the age of 7. My memory isn’t extremely clear on everything that happened to me that year, but I do remember a good bit about the Viper. 

My stepfather had a little keychain he carried around that made various weapon noises– exactly what you’d hear when you pushed the button on a GI Joe Sonic Fighters backpack. Machine guns, explosions, missile launching noises, and whatever else, all done in that charming and shrill digital style. You probably know the sounds.

I was obsessed with that keychain and had him make noises with it all the time. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

When I got the Sonic Fighters Viper in 91, I finally had my own version of that keychain in the form of a huge gold GI Joe backpack. I was delighted. 

I remember not understanding the Viper’s mortar accessory, which I also did not understand when I got Downtown a year or so earlier. His other accessories were fine, but kind of meaningless compared to the backpack. I took the figure and his backpack everywhere with me. 

The Viper was my main enemy trooper for a while. He supplemented HEAT Viper, Annihilator, Sludge Viper, and the version 2 BAT. But, for a while, he was Cobra’s main soldier. I just loved his look and his noise-making backpack elevated him over his peers. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

But, as I said, I took him everywhere with me. 

One day while I was playing at a playground near a canal, I was having fun with the figure and his backpack. I was a little too close to the water. The figure slipped out of my hand and, before I knew it, both the Viper and his backpack were in the canal. Luckily my mom was watching and stopped me from going in after it. 

That ended my two month friendship with the Sonic Fighters Viper. I lost him almost as soon as I got him, and I was devastated. He was never replaced during my childhood years.

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

I did get a Sonic Fighters Tunnel Rat and Lamprey in 1991 as well, and loved both of them. But neither of them filled the role that Viper did. 

Soon after, I’d get Super Sonic Fighters Rock n Roll, Falcon, and Psyche-Out. They were three of my most treasured childhood figures. But I never played with their noise-making backpacks to the degree that I played with the Viper’s. It was almost as if I was dishonoring his memory by engaging too much with any other hunk of plastic that made machine gun sounds. 

That Sonic Fighters Viper was the only version of the iconic Cobra infantry soldier I had until 1998, when I got the 97 Viper and Flight Pod pack. I cherished that figure from the moment I got it, and it brought back strong memories of the soldier I lost seven years earlier. To this day, that first 1997 Viper I bought holds a special place in my collection.

And, a couple years ago, I was finally able to replace my Sonic Fighters Viper. So let’s take a look at the figure. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper Review

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

1990 was a banner year for GI Joe. After some high quality, if strange and unfocused, releases in 1988 and 1989, GI Joe was set on reinventing itself. The main figure line in 1990 was made of all new characters, with no remakes or familiar faces. These characters were the face of the DIC animated series and the marketing blitz of the early 90s. 

I never really watched much of the DIC cartoon. I only knew the Sunbow episodes I could rent on VHS. And, around 1990 or so, most of my collection was made up of characters that never appeared in the cartoon. So, to me, GI Joe was Freefall, Stretcher, Rampart, Bullhorn, and Captain Grid Iron as much as it was Flint, Roadblock, and Shipwreck. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

GI Joe came out with guns blazing in 1990, not relying on the past to prop itself up. And, as kids at the time, we loved those figures and characters. They had cool sculpts, vibrant colors, and awesome accessories. 

But that was just the main line. Over in the Sonic Fighters sub-line, we did get some character re-releases: Dial-Tone, Dodger, Law, Tunnel Rat, Lamprey, and Viper.  And, for kids my age, those were our first chances at those figures. 

The 1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper is a straight-up repaint of the coveted 1986 Viper, but with different accessories and a large, noise-making backpack. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

The figure’s color scheme is pleasant– brown, gold, black, and red all work together and give the figure a warm, muted tone. It’s also not a color scheme any other figure in the vintage line had, and it’s a particularly unusual color scheme for a Cobra trooper. 

The 1990 Viper’s red face shield looks excellent against the gold helmet, and that’s what really caught my eye as a kid. To this day, I still think the red is striking and makes the figure much more interesting than it would be without it. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

The red tampographed Cobra symbol on the figure’s vest does blend in a bit too well with the brown, but that’s the worst thing you can say about the color scheme. As a kid, I thought it was a cool looking toy. As an adult, I’m impressed with all the paint details– there are even gold stripes painted on the inside of the legs!

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

If you compare the 1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper to his 1986 ancestor, you can see some differences in paint applications. Each figure probably has the same number of paint apps, but they both go different ways as far as where they allocate their paint. I really like that, as it keeps the 1990 Viper from just being a carbon copy in different colors.

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

I particularly enjoy the figure’s black gloves, which look way cooler than the 86’s all-red hands. The gold knee pads and vest pockets are also fantastic. 

Other than a Collectors Club remake in the modern style, no other Viper really looks like the 1990 version. I certainly don’t have every Viper ever made, but even in my little collection, the Sonic Fighters Viper stands out among his peers. In a good way! He works well with other Vipers, but doesn’t just fade into the background like so many other repaints do. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

Now it’s time to look at the figure’s accessories, which is where its “inflated” price point stemmed from back in 1990. Let’s be honest, we’d all kill to pay even the 2021 equivalent of five 1990 dollars for this figure right now. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

The 1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper comes with Hit & Run’s Colt SMG, Shockwave’s pistol, Annihilator’s scoped SMG, and Downtown’s 3 piece mortar, all cast in gold plastic. The figure also includes a large golden backpack with four different grey buttons, each of which make a different unconvincing weapon sound. You can listen to the sounds over at 3DJoes.

In 1990, Hasbro was not including battle stands with every figure. That wasn’t an innovation we got until further into the 90s. Coincidentally, the Viper can’t really stand up while he’s wearing his backpack unless you’re some kind of figure-posing magician. 

Luckily, GI Joe figures were aimed at kids and not collectors back then, and that didn’t really trouble me or any other kid I knew at the time. If you needed the figure to stand, you took his backpack off. It was no big deal. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

As a kid, I didn’t have strong opinions on any of the SF Viper’s accessories other than my distaste for Downtown’s mortar. I like the accessory now, but back then I didn’t even know what a mortar was, and it being a weird 3-piece thing didn’t help my opinions. I do still have my original 1990 Viper’s Colt SMG though, complete with a broken barrel and bent stock. So I must have enjoyed that accessory somewhat back then. 

I like both of the figure’s submachine guns and think they work well for him. The Colt SMG is something you usually see with characters on the GI Joe side, but it makes some amount of sense for Cobra soldiers to carry any kind of mass produced firearms. We tend to think of them using only Warsaw Pact-type guns, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. I’ve always liked the Annihilator SMG, too, and find it goes well with any Enemy figure.

The pistol is where I’m a bit conflicted. As a kid, I really disliked that gun, especially as we got more of them in 1993. GI Joe never had a huge variety of handguns compared to anything else, so they were special when they came along. Unfortunately, Shockwave’s pistol has a big grip and figures hold it at an awkward angle. It’s not a big deal for photos or displays, but when you’re playing with a figure and he can’t aim his gun straight it bums you out. I hated that everyone held it at an odd angle. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

I don’t hate the piece now, but I do think it’s awkward and not as well designed as many GI Joe accessories. 

The 1990 Viper’s accessories do one have one fatal flaw– they’re made of gold plastic. The color matches the figure just fine and they look good enough. It’s just that we all know gold plastic from the 80s, 90s, and early 00s tends to break easily. So you need to be a bit careful with them. 

And although all the Sonic Fighters only came with reused accessories from other figures, they were a good way to re-arm your Joes in the days before weapons trees came around. My 1992 Duke used the Viper’s Hit & Run SMG for many years. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

I don’t need to talk about how I see the Viper in the world of GI Joe or what kind of uses he has in a collection. I think most people see this figure as a desert-themed Viper and he works well enough in that regard. But I think he also works well in almost any other scenario– forest, jungle, savannah, or urban. Plus, a Viper is just a Viper. This is a Cobra infantryman, and he doesn’t need to be anything more than that. This one can function as a squad leader, a desert trooper, or just a regular old Viper. It’s a great figure and I don’t think anyone has ever had a hard time coming up with a role for it.

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

Before we wrap up, though, I do want to talk about the backpack a little bit more. The Sonic Fighters and Super Sonic Fighters backpacks are unfairly derided by collectors because they are “too big” and “useless.” But these were toys made for children. The backpacks added another fun element to some great action figures.

Check out this commercial:

There’s no way Dial-Tone didn’t break his hand by punching that Viper in the face. Just saying. 

But, more importantly, look at how the kids are playing with these toys. They’re actually moving them around by the backpacks and using the sound feature to represent weapons fire. It’s fun and it makes sense. They’re not setting up intricate displays or dioramas. They’re playing with their toys. And, in that sense, the Sonic Backpacks are great accessories.

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

We used them all the time as kids. Sometimes it was more fun to use the backpack sounds than to make our own machine gun or laser noises. We didn’t always have the backpacks attached to the figures, but we always had them close at hand when we needed some extra sound effects. Plus, most of the backpacks had some fun details. You could use Dial-Tone’s as a computer station or use the Viper’s as mountain climbing equipment. 

They were great. 

Now, as a collector, you don’t have to use the backpacks. You can sell them on eBay or throw them in a bin or drawer. They’ll only bother you if you let them. You can use the figures without the backpacks and forget they even exist. 

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

But, for me, the Sonic backpacks will always represent a fun action feature from one of my favorite toy lines. They’ll always remind me of good times playing GI Joe with my friends and losing a $5 action figure to a hungry canal.

For me, the 1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper would not be complete without his backpack. 

Overall: This is a great version of the most iconic Cobra army builder of all time, but you don’t need me to tell you that. You can see it for yourself. You already know what a Viper is and how the figure works. The SF Viper adds some visual variety to the Cobra ranks and can serve a variety of functions. It’s just a classic action figure in a beautiful and unique color scheme. It might not eclipse the 86 original, but it comes damn close. Highly Recommended

Additional Resources:

Closing Thoughts on 1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper

Thanks again to Mike T. for inspiring me to write this post! This is a great figure I might not have covered otherwise. 

What do you think of Sonic Fighters? How does this Viper rank in the pantheon of Cobra infantrymen? What’s your favorite version of the Viper? Let me know in the comments!

22 thoughts on “1990 GI Joe Sonic Fighters Viper Review

  1. Eric M Setzke

    Ah man, this was a little holy grail! I didn’t get him until maybe two years ago. I remember it vividly, having seen it at KB Toys. I never had any contact with the original Viper, so I saw this one was called “Viper” and had a fancy gold color scheme, so naturally I assumed this was the commander for ALL the Vipers! Nowadays it’s still my favorite color scheme for Vipers; it’s too bad it hasn’t made a comeback yet! I want to see the Classified Viper in these colors.

    As for the backpacks: I only had Sonic Fighters Rock n Roll (who was actually a replacement for the Rock n Roll he’s based on; I lost that one in a field somewhere). I used the CRAP out of his backpack, but mostly because it wasn’t just a backpack – it was also a gun station! Beyond that though, I also carried it around with me. Not only was it sound effects, but I also used it as a little laser gun for myself.


    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Eric!

      I’d love it if Hasbro tried some of these more obscure color schemes on the lines they’re doing now. That would be fantastic.

      And I’m glad you finally got a Sonic Viper. He is a must-have, imo. I had to track one of these down way before I ever got an 86 Viper (which wasn’t that long ago).

      Super Sonic Fighters Rock n Roll is a GOAT. I love that all of the SSF figures have backpacks you can use for other stuff– Falcon’s helicopter pack is a personal favorite, too. I used the heck out of both of them as a kid.

      Did you use the little green cone/weapons stand on the RNR backpack as a handle??


  2. When I really started collecting in the late ’90’s, you’d get these guys all the time in various lots. In fact, they were much more common than the other Sonic Fighters. Without really trying, I had three of them and even picked up a carded version in a lot. By the early 2000’s, though, the army building bug was dumb and this guy climbed upwards of $15 per figure…which was what a Starduster would cost you back then. The ’90’s lots dried up and guys like this became a lot harder to find.

    As he was past my childhood experience and I did grow up with the ’86 Viper, I only see these guys as either Viper officers or some type of ceremonial duty Viper. They look great. But, my adult imagination is limited and I had the full inventory of Joe figures available that better filled desert Cobras.

    The canal story is fantastic. Even as a kid, I was super careful with my toys. (A byproduct of trying to wash sawdust off Han Solo’s gun when I was 5 and washing it down the sink. I can still see it swirling away to this day.) So, I rarely took them to ponds, creeks or canals. (The Canal near my house had super steep banks, not conducive for play, though.) I had plenty of water adventures with the hose in the backyard, though. But, I know the trauma of watching a toy you love slip out of your grasp to be gone forever.

    I like the backpacks from 1991 better. The 1990’s seemed to try to be a larger version of a field pack. In 1991, they embraced the absurdity and went sci-fi/high tech and made better and more useful toys. But, I always considered the packs much like I did the 1993/4 spring loaded gear as something to toss into a box in case I ever needed it. I still find them in various boxes today.

    Glad I could help inspire this post! It’s a great trip down memory lane. And, while I was in high school and too cool for Joes in 1990 (not really, I was a dork) the experiences of playing, losing and loving weird figures remains universal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the nice comment, Mike!

      I admit that I wasn’t super careful with my toys until later on, as I was more focused on fun than preservation. It should have been a combination of both from the start, and it’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

      I re-read your 2001 profile of this figure before posting mine and quite enjoyed your thoughts on it from back then. It’s interesting that even 20 years ago it wasn’t the easiest figure to find.

      I also agree that the 91 backpacks are a lot better overall. But, as a starting point and in context for the time, I think the 90 backpacks are pretty cool. These days I tend to use the SSF backpacks much more than I use any of the SF backpacks. But I’m glad they exist.


  3. generalliederkranz

    This was a fun read, and I love the pictures. Your Viper is in immaculate condition, that black and gold paint wears so easily! Like I said on Twitter (or was it Instagram?), I’d never realized how well the Sonic Viper goes with Overlord, but I have to try it now. Overlord needs his own troops (outside the COIL theme, which I still don’t understand since I didn’t read those comics or buy the convention set).

    This figure was cool, but he didn’t quite click with me as a kid. Sonic Dial-Tone and Tunnel Rat did, but I think I knew about the 86 Viper from the comics early on, and really wanted that figure. This one seemed like a substitute. As I got older I found more uses for them, primarily as desert Vipers.

    Your comment about the 1990-1992 figures resonating with you matches my experience, but a year later. The 89s, 90s, and first series 91s were absolutely perfect in my mind and matched exactly what I wanted. (I never saw 89 as unfocused, I thought it was a nice balance of old and new characters, and essential military specialties and frills, while also keeping sub teams like the Dreadnoks, BF2k, and the Iron Grenadiers going. The only thing missing was Cobra characters). Starting with the second series 91s I remember being a little dissatisfied with the accessories, and nothing after that ever recaptured the feelings I had about the 89s-91s.

    I also enjoyed using the Sonic backpacks as toys in their own right. I vaguely remember chasing friends around the neighborhood making sounds (I also remember the annoyance of putting away my toys at night and going to bed, only to hear noises from deep inside a box because something had shifted and pushed a button so now a sonic backpack was going off! That happened more than once.)

    Finally, you make a good point about the Shockwave pistol being hard to pose. I think the Battle Corps versions work better, since the handles got a little narrower. And the softer 2000s plastic helped. But still, it seems like a missed opportunity that they made so many version of that pistol, while neglecting other awesome pistols in the line: 87 Psyche-Out’s, 87 Hardtop’s, 86 Mindbender’s, 88 Windmill’s, and then even just from 89 alone, there was Long Range’s, Dogfight’s, Downtown’s, and Track-Viper’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, GL!

      Since you left this reply, a few other people have told me my Viper is in nice shape and the paint is easily worn or damaged. I didn’t realize that about this figure, though I should have– it’s pretty easy to scuff up both gold and silver paint on ARAH GI Joe figures. So I just should have known. But I didn’t have him long enough as a kid for his paint to wear down, and this one was in really nice shape (I could tell that much) when I got it, so I’ve been pretty careful with it. I probably paid too much, so that probably influenced me to treat it extra kindly.

      I also would have loved an 86 Viper as a kid. That’s why I was thrilled with the 97– it was a mostly blue Viper, which was close enough for me at the time. I really don’t think I knew what an original Viper looked like until 1993 or 94, though.

      I also didn’t mean to come down harshly on 1989. I think that year had some of the best figures in the line. It just does seem a bit scattered to me, which isn’t a bad thing at all. There’s tons of variety there in a time before there were any non-repaint sub-lines. You have an astronaut, deep sea diver, weirdo futuristic communications guy, and a journalist among the very straight laced figures like Stalker, Snake Eyes, and Rock n Roll.

      And OH MY GOD that happened to me with those backpacks (and the Fort America gun) all the time as a kid. I’d put my toys away and then something would start making a noise from the toy box. I forgot all about that phenomenon until you mentioned it just now. I sometimes still have that problem with a Valor Vs Venom Cobra snowmobile I keep in an unsorted accessories bin.

      And you’re right– those are all great pistols. Downtown’s was my favorite as a kid and I would have loved to see it again. I am grateful that the 97 Bronze Bombers set comes with several Track Viper pistols, though, as I don’t think I’d own any otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. animatedtako

    I’ve also been thinking about this guy a lot lately, funny enough! I didn’t have the pleasure of getting him from retail, but I was able to get one without his accessories right around 98 or so from my first “lot” (which really just amounted to a friend’s brother’s figures finding their way to me) Since I had two 97 Vipers and two of the 98 trooper sets, this guy became the de facto officer leading my Viper corp, which came together pretty astonishingly quick!

    I wish I had that mortar, I think it’s really cool and I don’t have any experience with Downtown. I’m always surprised people don’t make a bigger deal of it being in that Viper’s accessories, because off the top of my head, I think it’s the only mass retail Cobra with a true mortar! So until 1990, I guess Vipers just called the nearest Maggot battery and hoped for the best. (I guess that obscure JC penny’s trooper/officer set makes a precedent that normal blueshirts man mortars and bazookas among their other duties; but I certainly wouldn’t call that mainstream – point remains Cobra was hurting for infantry level bombardment.) I love the details of his sound pack, I’d assume that crate is full of mortar rounds and that giant bed roll at the top, it’s so big. It’s fun to imagine a team of Vipers lugging these heavy ass packs deep into the desert to set up a concealed fire base.

    I feel the same way about that pistol, but I loved the two sub-machine guns. Between the two Colt-Commando molds in the original line, I think I prefer the Shockwave/Mace/Payload one a little more, with it’s more manageable short grip, but I had the Hit&Run one in black thanks to 94 Flint and Shipwreck so I ended up using it more often. I would have enjoyed it in gold though.

    The Annihilator sub gun is also a favorite. I didn’t have Annihilator, but I deduced that he had that gun before the figures I had from my one 89 catalogue, so being an Iron Grenadier gun I figured Destro must have made them. I latched on to that silly plot point from the Street Fighter movie about Sagat being a black market weapons dealer, so I would pile up all the Annihilator and Destro SMGs I had into the back of Sagat’s Devastator for Mace to discover while trying to bust Headhunters. The idea of a purple half track parked in a shady warehouse is pretty funny to me now.

    Anyway, that was all way before I got that Sonic Fighters Viper, which I adore, even if I don’t have his gear!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, my friend!

      I never thought about the mortar that way before, but you’re right. And it’s a complex, well-done accessory that I appreciate now. I just didn’t care about it at all as a kid, and even though I think it’s cool in the present day, it’s not one that really captures my attention or imagination. And yeah I think that’s one cool thing about the huge backpacks– imagining the sheer volume of stuff they could hold and what it allows the character to carry. I always liked that it looked like Tunnel Rat’s backpack was carrying a year’s worth of ammunition.

      I honestly could not decide between Hit & Run or DEF Shockwave’s SMGs. To me they just seem to serve different purposes and certainly look very different! The H&R Colt SMG just seems so much more aggressive.

      I love your idea for Sagat! And I’m jealous that you had that vehicle growing up. I would have loved it. And I still maintain that Street Fighter movie is the best live action GI Joe film to this day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. animatedtako

        100%, Raul Julia’s M.Bison’s Cobra Commander is the essence of the character. I got really lucky with the Street Fighter movie stuff, my family’s main vacation spot was Myrtle Beach, and in the 90s that inevitably meant a trip to the massive (at least it felt massive to me as a kid) Waccamaw malls. They closed long ago, but it was something like 4 shopping malls of various sizes on one property. Within, there was both a KB Toys outlet, and a place called Toy Liquidators and both were graveyards of overproduced toys. All kinds of action figures 3 for $10, all of the mission specific Guiles you could eat. I focused on the vehicles, excited to finally get a vamp, dragonfly and snowcat in some form. That’s how I got G2 Cyberjets and some Machine Wars toys too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s awesome! We never had (or went) to any stores like that, but I would have loved it.

        I think our local KB disappeared by 1997 or so, so I remember missing out on Machine Wars. Which I was bummed about. I loved Beast Wars but desperately wanted new vehicle Transformers. I also missed out on their exclusive Tech Wars line, which was all Exosquad repaints. I had a friend who would occasionally get to go to an out of town KB with his family on trips and he would bring all these cool things back. I was so jealous. I do remember seeing lots and lots of movie Guiles at our KB before it closed, but rarely saw any of the other figures.

        Our Toys R Us opened in 1994 or so (I think), which killed KB within a couple of years. It’s sad because I loved having both around.

        As a side note, the Cyberjets are amazing and anyone who even remotely likes Transformers should own them. They’re just such good toys that easily hold up to today’s standards.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Josh Z

    Funny thing, Downtown’s “mortar” isn’t actually a mortar, despite Downtown being the Joe team’s Mortar Man. It’s actually a recoilless rifle. Somebody at Hasbro screwed up the design.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Josh!

      You learn something new every day. I had no idea it wasn’t a mortar. I didn’t even understand what a mortar was until much later in life. And today I researched recoilless rifles because of your comment.


  6. Sam Smith

    I had Sonic Vipey as a 10 year old kid. I liked him, played with him and his giant backpack. I missed out on 86 Vipey as a kid, so Sonic Vipey took his place.

    That said, I think I appreciate Sonic Vipey *more* as adult than I did as a kid. I mean… This is an inspired figure! Sonic Vipey cannot be viewed in isolation. He must be viewed in context of GI Joe line as a whole. Consider the following:

    1. Sonic Vipey’s color scheme perfectly matches Overlord’s color scheme. Like, perfectly! This cannot be an accident. The colors must be hinting at a long-lost storyline (planned then scrapped at Hasbro). Both figures also came out in 1990. Overlord’s filecard talks about rising Cobra’s ranks and how he demands loyalty from his troops. What troops?? Overlord was not part of any sub team or sub faction. Unless… Maybe he was supposed to be? 🤔 Sonic Vipey *looks* like it was designed to be Overlord’s foot soldier. I have no evidence for this, but I suspect Hasbro planned Overlord to be Cobra’s new big-bad for 1990, and Sonic Vipey was to be Cobra new infantryman. But, for whatever reason, Hasbro scrapped is that plan and shoved Sonic Vipey into the Sonic Fighters subline instead. (Was the cost of EZ-Rub gold paint too high? Hahaha!)

    Ok, moving on.

    2. Sonic Vipey’s color scheme are also a very,, very good match for 91 Cobra Commander. Both figures have red face plates and gold adornments. Sonic Vipey would have still been on the pegs when 91 CC was released. Again, it’s like we can see into the minds of Hasbro’s product designers. If the Overlord storyline for 1900 was scrapped, what did Hasbro replace it with and why? Very likely, Hasbro scrapped the Overlord storyline because 91 CC was in development. And well, Sonic Vipey looks great next to 91 CC. I am impressed by the intentionality on display in the finished product. It’s like, someone in the Hasbro cube-farm stood up and shouted, “Okay guys, we’re done with silver face masks. It’s the 90s! Red face makes are in fashion now!” And boom. We got a leader and foot soldiers in matching attire.

    Ok, one more observation.

    3. Uh…maybe your favorite Cobra big-bad is 86 Serpy. 🤷‍♂️ Well, guess which Cobra foot soldier looks great flanking Serpy as a ceremonial guard? Yessssss it’s Sonic Vipey. (Pro tip: Python Vipey looks excellent as a 2000s Serpy body guard). Again, this can’t be an accident.

    Basically, Sonic Vipey is an example of Hasbro reaching apex-level product line planning. Can you think of another repaint (excluding Night Force) that works so well with the broader line as a whole? Probably not.

    These guys are too expensive on Ebay to army build in large quantities. I’ve managed to pick up three so far, and I’ve swapped the giant gold backpack for an 86 Vipey backpack. The figure looks better to my eye that way. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to pick up a few more at a fair price and act out a *new* Cobra Civil War story line: Overlord vs. CC!!! May the most garrishly dressed paramilitary force win!!! 🤭🤭🤭

    Thanks for the review. Really enjoyed it.

    P.S. When I bought a Sonic Vipey on Ebay, I told the seller that he didn’t need to ship the giant gold backpack. I said he could either put it up for sale on Ebay or toss it. To my surprise, the seller rejected this! 😅😅 He didn’t want that gold albatross either. “You bought it, you’re getting it.” LOL! Anywaaaayyyy, *that* is how unpopular those giant backpacks are nowadays. Regardless, the figure is so nice, it still commands premium prices. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. generalliederkranz

      Man, you beat me to it! Inspired by Dragon Fortress’s pic with Overlord, I am just about to take some pictures of an Overlord CC showdown–I’m going to use the 91 Talking version though, backed up by CGIs, instead of the 91 CC. Overlord had so much potential for interesting Cobra internal politics that was sadly lost in the affiliated media, since Hama understandably didn’t want to reboot the comic story line and DIC was…DIC. But I sometimes kick around ideas for a 1990 reboot where the older Joes retire, the 90 team takes over, and they fight a revitalized Cobra torn between CC and Overlord.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Sam!

      You’re right about this Viper matching Overlord very nicely. I went through every figure I could think of from 90 and 91 to find decent matches. Overlord was a late idea, but ended up being the best one. It also looks great with Incinerators, good with Desert Scorpions, and pretty decent with Range Vipers. Instead of just calling those things out in the written text, I decided to let the photos do the talking for “good matches” for this review.

      The Serpentor idea is good and I didn’t think of it at all!

      I actually kind of like that red face masks became such a thing. They look great and the paint doesn’t wear off as easily.

      I always enjoy hearing about your plot and character ideas, too. And it’s hilarious that neither you nor that eBay seller wanted the big gold backpack.


  7. bowlweevils

    Since I just discovered your website and you said you appreciate information about release dates in a long ago comment i can’t reply to, I’ll put my information here.

    I was collecting GI Joes from fall 1983 to fall 1988, and lived on Long Island NY. Back then, at least from 1984 and a few years after that, you could at least some of the upcoming year’s figures at certain stores in Chinatown in Manhattan in December of the previous year, maybe as early as Thanksgiving.

    The prices were highly inflated since I assume they knew they were selling product before the release dates, so were charging $5 a figure instead of the normal $3. Nevertheless, I convinced my mother that I indeed needed a Snow Serpent in December 1984, in case it snowed before he showed up at the Toys R Us a few months later.

    But I was a miserly child, and after that just looked at the new figures early on our visits instead of paying almost two Joe’s worth of dollars for one figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by!

      I guess I never considered an importer (or someone similar) getting a mainstream Hasbro toy early back in the 80s, but of course it makes sense that it was a thing. It’s something you hear about now, but I just haven’t heard much about it happening back then so this was a little bit surprising. Thank you for sharing.


  8. I love this figure. He was a favorite of mine as a kid and as an adult. My two main uses for the figure over the years have been him as a desert trooper, and as a Cobra working directly under 2002 Headman (Bizarre, but my more childish self from the late 2000’s thought it was cool.). The colors are just so nice and different I love inventing new reasons to use him.

    As for that Colt rifle, I tend to like it with him. I’ve personally imagined that Cobra has a large cache of NATO firearms that have been smuggled to them through botched operations like Fast and Furious, and probably some fraudulent foreign aid programs being conducted by Crimson Guard infiltrators. It’s a little thing that makes the choice of weapon more interesting to think about in my head.

    As for the backpacks… I’m mixed on them. Indeed, I did tend to like them a lot when I was a kid, though it was a sort of fascination that wore off pretty quickly. At the very least is was a better gimmick than the glowing launchers from the DEF line, which wore out too quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Nekoman!

      I actually kind of like the 02 Headman idea. I think they’d look reasonably good together, and it’s not like Hasbro released any (widely available) troops for him in the repaint era.

      I agree with you on Cobra using NATO weapons. I just feel like it has to happen sometimes. It’s realistic, but maybe a bit jarring because we either see Cobra released with Warsaw Pact stuff or fancy futuristic stuff most of the time. But it works just fine and is no problem if you let those (very inconsequential) preconceived notions go. As it sounds like we both do.

      You’re right about the DEF launchers. The only one I ever used was Shockwave’s, since it was a little drone vehicle that could knock down doors. That made it much more interesting and useful to me than any other figure in the subset’s launcher. I never even cared too much about the light up gimmick, honestly– I just thought the little battering ram tank was neat.


  9. A-Man

    Viper Centurian, my brother called him. Not that I had a 100 vipers for him to lead.

    Shame about gold paint rubbing off so easily. That and the lack of original viper weapon were my only problems with him. Well, the price, I would’ve gotten more than one back in the day.

    The Sonic Fighters were odd. No media use, maybe some comics used the Joes’ color schemes. I doubt it. They seemed to be a last minute addition to 1990, coming out LATE in that year (I still say they were early 1991 due to showing 1991 figures on the cardbacks) And the character selection is just…random almost. I wouldn’t call the 4 joe popular characters per se (though Hama loved using Tunnel Rat). The cobras follow the pattern of making mostly carded troops that started in 1988, but a carded vehicle driver was a surprise, since IIRC, it had only previously happened with Python Copperhead.

    Some of the file cards mention actual sonic weapons, but they are just reissued weapons. Even Super Sonic Fighter have maybe two figure that I could think had sonic weapons: Bludd and Psyche-Out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My apologies for the delayed reply, A-Man, but thanks for the comment!

      I wonder how the original Viper rifle would have turned out in gold. It seems like it might be extra prone to breakage. And it is a shame about the paint, but no vintage ARAH figure with gold paint has ever held up all that well.

      I think the DIC cartoon at least used Falcon and Rock n Roll’s SF colors, so I guess that counts for something?

      The file card descriptions of all the SF weapons are just wild. Read any of those card backs and try to match up the weapons the file cards describe to the accessories they actually come with. It’s a really fun brain teaser, and by that I mean I need a couple tylenol every time I try to figure it out. Which one is the laser pistol? Which one is the machine gun? Not even the designers or writers knew!


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