Every Thursday this month, I’ll be reviewing a favorite GI Joe figure from my childhood. One of the figures I played with the most. The figures who were a part of nearly every childhood adventure. The ones who got dragged through the dirt, flung off the jungle gym at the local park, left at Grandma’s house over the weekend, brought to school hidden in a backpack, and treated carelessly by a child’s unabashed adoration.
Narrowing it down to only four figures is a daunting task, but I think I’ve figured it out.
I’m starting with 1992 GI Joe Ninja Force Storm Shadow, who is the pinnacle of “childhood favorites.” This is not a popular figure, but it’s a figure that means the world to me. It was a total game changer that affected every single aspect of GI Joe for me. This figure was my first ninja hero in the GI Joe line. A legendary character. A former bad guy now fighting on the side of the angels. A hooded avenger in white, righting wrongs with an alabaster sickle and sword.
I’ll do my best to acknowledge the figure’s shortcomings (and there are many) while also singing its praises and describing what it means to me.
We’ll also discuss its ephemeral nature– nothing lasts forever, not even an iconic ninja warrior.
Here is the mythical Ninja Force Storm Shadow in all of his flawed glory.
How 1992 GI Joe Ninja Force Storm Shadow Changed GI Joe Forever
I loved GI Joe before 1992. Many figures from 1989, 1990, and 1991 stayed important to me throughout childhood. But, as I’ve mentioned before, 1992 really felt like “my year” for GI Joe. It’s not my favorite year for the toy line these days, but it probably made the strongest showing during my childhood.
It was the year of fashioning cardboard boxes into labyrinthian Cobra temples and seeing if the Battle Wagon could safely drive itself down the stairs. It could not.
Among all of the hype around GI Joe’s main line, which brought me Duke, Firefly, and others, we also got plenty of sub teams. Talking Battle Commanders brought Stalker, Cobra Commander, and Overkill into the fold. DEF netted me Shockwave and a Headhunter.
But some bold, neon pink packaging delivered the greatest treasure of all– Ninja Force. Like any good old fashioned, god-fearing, red-scared boy from nuclear powered small town America, I loved ninjas. But GI Joe experienced ninja scarcity in my early years, with only a single 1990 Night Creeper finding its home in my collection prior to Ninja Force.
I don’t remember if I got Nunchuk or Storm Shadow first. I don’t remember if they came before Slice and Dice. I know I wasn’t particularly interested in Dojo or T’jbang. And I know I appreciated all of the Ninja Force figures I received in 1992– but Storm Shadow was the real treasure.
I had no childhood connection to Snake Eyes. I saw him in a couple of my friend’s Marvel comic books and knew him from his two minutes of screen time in GI Joe: The Movie, but he was pretty much a non-entity to me. I thought he looked cool, but I didn’t really understand what his deal was.
So, in effect, Storm Shadow became my Snake Eyes. He was the ninja commando who turned the tide on every mission. He was a master of stealth and the martial arts. A keen military strategist. A squad leader. An unstoppable fighting machine. No BAT or Sludge Viper could stand in his way.
1992 Storm Shadow saw such heavy use that his accessories were lost within months. And, while we are all just swimming in extra GI Joe swords now thanks to lots from Chinese eBay sellers and turn-of-the-century new sculpt releases, swords were scarce back then. At different points, Storm Shadow wielded small cocktail swords, twist-tie whips, and toothpicks wrapped in masking tape.
At one particularly desperate time, he even used a LEGO Castle lance.
As a kid, I loved the character of Storm Shadow (a military-aligned ninja warrior with a mystical bent) and the figure’s look. The white outfit, complete with a hood to shroud his black-masked face, was perfect. The black detailing and gold grenades made him something extra special. He felt like a crusader or a paladin, fighting the evils of Cobra’s killer robots and environmental destruction.
He went along with Flint, Heavy Duty, Tunnel Rat, and Shockwave on every important mission. He argued with Duke and Hawk. He rescued Falcon from Overkill. He infiltrated the strongholds and stormed the fortresses.
And, eventually, he was gone.
I’m not exactly sure what happened to my original Ninja Force Storm Shadow. He was well-loved and then he was not there. He could have been lost, broken, or forgotten when a new figure came along. It could have just been that I lost interest in him because he no longer had a weapon to call his own.
He disappeared before my house fire, either by neglect or by a ninja smoke bomb escape.
In 2000, I was thrilled to purchase another version of the figure, sold in a 2-pack with what would become my very first ARAH-style Snake Eyes. That figure’s bare hands and plain color scheme were disappointing, though, and he just could not live up to his ancestor.
I dutifully bought the BJ’s Exclusive Sound Attack 6-pack as well, which included a red version of this Storm Shadow. But that one didn’t live up to my childhood memories, either.
When I started rebuilding my ARAH collection in earnest several years ago, Ninja Force Storm Shadow was on my short list. But finding a complete figure in good condition proved to be a difficult task. Then I got lucky.
My friend Jeremy sent me all six 1992 Ninja Force figures, still sealed on Spanish cards. That was an extremely nice thing for him to do and I am still very grateful.
It was a thrill to open up a brand new Ninja Force Storm Shadow. And that figure Jeremy gave me is a cherished part of my GI Joe collection.
My original Storm Shadow was a gift from my mother and my current Storm Shadow was a gift from a dear friend. And I will cherish this figure long after he falls into time’s cruel embrace.
Nothing is forever.
But while he’s still with us, let’s take a look at 1992 GI Joe Ninja Force Storm Shadow.
1992 GI Joe Ninja Force Storm Shadow Review
Storm Shadow version 3 was released in GI Joe’s Ninja Force sub-line in 1992. This particular figure was a Spanish release, which is identical to the domestic Hasbro release in every single way, save for the language on the figure’s packaging.
These packaging photos are old. They were taken before I got my current amateur lighting setup, but you should still be able to make out the details.
Though they’re a common subject for derision in the online GI Joe community, I absolutely love the hot pink and black card back. The Storm Shadow artwork itself is also beautiful and dynamic, featuring the character in an impossible ninja pose, ready to kick the head right off of a hapless Destro or Flak Viper.
I also appreciate the simple action feature callout. The action feature itself is another story entirely, however.
1992 GI Joe Ninja Force Storm Shadow was an all-new mold for the year. The figure features the character’s legacy all-white appearance, but adds a black mask, black speckled detailing, and gold paint applications for various knives and grenades. Taken both on its own and as an update to the two versions of Storm Shadow that came before it, it’s a brilliant and striking design. It should come as little surprise that it was an instant favorite for me. At the time in 1992, this was the coolest looking GI Joe figure I’d ever seen. Real love at first sight stuff. Somehow, I am still not married. I’m sure these two facts are entirely unrelated.
Ninja Force Storm Shadow also featured two cloth ribbons, attached at the figure’s belt. They make the figure feel even more special. The 1992 Ninja Force line was full of fun little embellishments like that– added details made of non-plastic materials that added even more dynamism to the figures.
This figure does not feature standard GI Joe construction, which is why it’s generally disliked among fans. The figure contains the usual o-ring and t-hook that keep most GI Joe figures together but, since there’s no screw hole in the figure’s back, you cannot access its insides and replace the o-ring. The figure’s head is also on a limited swivel, restricting its range of motion. Two plastic tabs also lock the figure at the waist, limiting its movement there, too.
And, most damningly, the figure’s arms are restricted by a “screaming whirlwind” action feature. Basically, when you move one of the figure’s arms, the other one also moves along with it, resulting in a sort of double-slashing action feature. It’s not the worst gimmick, but I never used it too much even as a kid. You can “reset” each arm into different positions, so it’s not unposeable, but it does impede movement and take extra time. There’s also some amount of risk involved.
Aesthetically, though, 1992 Storm Shadow is a good update to the two figures that came before him. Here he is with the 2005 Comic Pack Storm Shadow, standing in for version 1, and a Funskool version of 1988’s Storm Shadow version 2. He takes design cues from both figures and pulls off the look very well.
You will notice, though, that Storm Shadow version 3 is much taller than his counterparts. I’m not sure if this is because the figure had to house the action feature or because getting the hood to look right required more plastic real estate. Some fans call this figure “giraffe necked,” which he kind of is, but my eyes don’t see it that way. Both as a kid and as an adult, I just see it as the hood looking a bit more natural. Either way, though, he is taller than most ARAH figures.
1992 GI Joe Ninja Force Storm Shadow came with three accessories– a white long sword, a white sickle, and a black figure stand. The sword and sickle are pictured below, both on a blue background and a white background so you can pick out the details.
The plastic on the accessories is a little bit soft (as many GI Joe weapons are) and they tend to pick up paint from the figure’s hands and ambient dirt and grime. The handles can also get a little bit chewed up from sliding in and out of the figure’s hands too often. If you actually use the figure, the weapons won’t remain perfect for long.
The sword is simple, but I’ve always really liked it. It looks swift and deadly, and it’s a good fit for the toy. The sickle features much more details, and is a bit of an odd weapon. You could say it’s a scythe-type weapon or a climbing axe of some sort. Both make sense within the context of the character. The sickle was also never reused with another figure, as far as I know.
The “screaming whirlwind” works best when the figure has both weapons equipped. And you can get some pretty fun poses when Storm Shadow is dual wielding, despite the articulation limitations. It’s a good pair of accessories.
This Storm Shadow mold was used many times by Hasbro. In the vintage ARAH line, it was reused for both versions of Street Fighter’s Ken, for T’Ginzu in 1993, and for Shadow Ninjas Storm Shadow (possibly the most fun tongue twister/Fu-Schnickens chorus Hasbro ever gifted unto the world).
You’re seeing my childhood Ken in the photo above. Even when I was 9, I recognized the mold reuse. I also knew that Hasbro was using Slice for its various Mortal Kombat ninjas and that both Guile and Liu Kang used the same body mold. It was a curiosity to me as a kid, but I never really minded it.
In the Repaint Era, Hasbro used the 92 Storm Shadow mold three more times. And collectors got sick of it. If we’re being fair minded, they also used the original Storm Shadow and v2 molds a couple of times, too, but collectors were soured on this one after just three uses. People just couldn’t make peace with the unusual Ninja Force construction, even after its action feature was neutered.
I don’t agree, but the sentiment is understandable.
The actual looks of this figure have resonated with the fan base, though.
In 1997, the full original Storm Shadow mold was released with colors that paid tribute to the 1992 version. This is my favorite version of the v1 Storm Shadow toy.
In 2012, Hasbro released a modern era Storm Shadow for their basic “Dollar General” line that homaged the Ninja Force figure– albeit very lazily. It’s a pretty good figure, but Hasbro didn’t do much beyond some easy black paint applications. Also, I forgot how difficult it is to actually get the Renegades/Ultimate Storm Shadow figure mold to actually stand up. Blech.
In 2020, Hasbro released an “Arctic Mission” Storm Shadow as an Amazon exclusive for its Classified line. This is a very nice looking figure, and it works perfectly as an update to the Ninja Force original. I don’t collect 6” figures, but this is one I was very tempted to buy.
The Ninja Force look was used extensively in comics, the DiC cartoon series, and marketing materials in the early 1990s. For people of a certain age, this is Storm Shadow. So it makes sense that the look makes an appearance from time to time. The outfit’s look is much more popular than the figure that spawned it.
My friend RTG also mentioned that Hasbro should have released a version of Storm Shadow v2 in these colors during the Repaint Era, and I can’t argue with that.
I don’t really need to talk about how I see this figure or how he functions in a GI Joe collection. To me, this is just what Storm Shadow wore after he started working with the GI Joe team full time. Because of the recent Classified release, some people might see it as a Storm Shadow who’s more appropriately dressed for cold weather missions, too.
I love this figure, but it has even more issues than I mentioned previously.
Like many of our plastic treasures, this figure is only temporary. We all lost toys as kids. They were sold at garage sales when we went off to college, lost in backyards, or broken by friends or siblings. We’ve done our best to replace these icons of our childhoods, but not even that lasts forever.
Plastic degrades over time, of course, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. The oil-based polymers Hasbro used for these toys will outlive us all, destined to be discovered in landfills by puzzled archaeologists and historians.
But this toy is more momentary than most. I opened this figure fresh from its package and have been its only owner since it escaped plastic Alcatraz. No prison can hold a ninja, after all. But, despite the care and consideration that I’ve shown it, it’s already turning a bit yellow. The legs are loose in several positions.
And, once the o-ring breaks, this toy is done for. There is no replacing it. That little rubber band is already on its way out. When it finally disintegrates, I won’t have many options. I can turn to someone who’s already cracked the figure open, replaced the o-ring, and glued it back together. But that’s also a temporary solution. The next o-ring will break, too, necessitating more professional help to rebuild the figure again.
These plastic things cannot last forever. And I’m not sure they should. My childhood Storm Shadow was gone by 1994. He was replaced in 2018. This figure will be done for by 2023. Ninja Force Storm Shadow is a source of joy for me, but he is not eternal. He is a plastic toy meant for children, and he was never meant to be a source of nostalgic mirth for a man in his 30s.
When Ninja Force Storm Shadow finally gives up the ghost, I will let go. I will say goodbye and I will say thank you. This small ninja action figure has already done so much for me– when he’s ready to depart, I will let him rest. He’s earned it.
We will all give up our toys some day, whether by choice or by death. I’m just glad one of my most treasured toys will go out on its own terms. That means I’ll appreciate it even more while it’s still around.
Closing Thoughts on 1992 GI Joe Ninja Force Storm Shadow
Thanks for reading! As you can see, I’m not giving this figure an actual rating. I think you can determine whether you want it or not based on all the flaws I described in the review. Also, if you hate action features, this one is probably a no-go for you.
What are your thoughts on this mold? Should it have died after 1994? Do you like the look, at least? Let me know in the comments!