Today we’re continuing Childhood Favorites Month with a look at the single figure who made up the backbone of my Cobra army as a kid– the 1991 BAT v2.
As with the other three figures I’m featuring this month, this one means a lot to me. I’ll try to be objective, but nostalgia has a strong hold over me when it comes to this black and neon android.
Also note that I’ve included some fairly old photos in this review. Any time you see a BAT without a chest sticker, that’s an old photo. I wanted to include them both because they are amusing and because I want you to see what a 1991 BAT normally looks like– their lenticular chest stickers have almost all fallen off by now.
Let’s run through the usual childhood stories, the review, and the comparisons. Join me after the break.
1991 GI Joe BAT, The Royal Army of Cobra
As a kid, I always seemed to have more GI Joe figures than Cobra figures. I have always been partial to the good guys in almost every franchise (miss me with that ‘The Empire Did Nothing Wrong’ shit), but the good guys do need bad guys to fight. Plus, when you have an enemy faction as interesting as Cobra is, you want as many of those figures as you can possibly get.
I just didn’t have many.
My memory is not infallible, but before 1991 I only remember having a few Cobra troop types– I had an Annihilator (I didn’t understand the concept of Iron Grenadiers back then), a HEAT Viper, a Techno Viper, a Night Creeper, and a Range Viper. Of those, the Night Creeper and Techno Viper stayed at my dad’s house, which I never really went to. And of the three remaining figures, I really only loved the Range Viper.
That’s why 1991 was a godsend. I didn’t get too many more Cobra troop types that year, but I absolutely loved the ones I got.
In 1991, I received a Desert Scorpion, an Incinerator, a Sonic Fighters Lamprey (which stayed at my dad’s house), a Sonic Fighters Viper (which was lost that same year), a Sludge Viper, and a BAT.
So, that basically left me with the BAT, the Desert Scorpion, and the Sludge Viper. The Incinerator didn’t last more than a year and I’m not sure what happened to it.
The Desert Scorpion was pretty environmentally specific, which I realized even as a kid. And I was paying more attention to file cards in 1991, and him being the “lowest of the low” as far as Cobra troops went meant I didn’t see as much value in him.
So, my Cobra forces were basically made up of BATs and Sludge Vipers until the following years. Granted, I only had one BAT and one Sludge Viper, because there was no way my mom was going to willingly buy me two of the same figure. But I had imagination, which is almost as good as army building.
Similar to Tik-Tok in Ozma of Oz and the movie Return to Oz, who is a one-robot Royal Army of Oz, my BAT functioned as the one-robot Royal Army of Cobra. Except while Tik-Tok is just one stout lil’ fantasy robot, my BAT figure represented the entire Cobra army. When one went down, another one took its place.
Sludge Vipers were tougher enemies than BATs, and the Joes usually had to wade through several waves of 1991 GI Joe BATs to get to a couple Sludge Vipers. I liked the idea of robot enemies for GI Joe, both because I saw it on the Sunbow cartoon VHS tapes I rented and because it lessened the level of real violence. I didn’t like the idea of GI Joe agents killing scores of human opponents.
Eventually, BATs were supplemented by Headhunters, Crimson Guard Commanders, Toxo Zombies, Headhunter Stormtroopers, and TARGATs. But even through the remaining years of the original ARAH GI Joe toy line, the BAT remained the most important member of my Cobra army. They were the perfect cannon fodder and they looked cool as hell.
When you mention “Cobra,” this BAT is still one of the first things that pops into my mind.
I know a lot of GI Joe fans don’t love the idea of robot enemies. It lessens the “realism” of the brand and there are practical concerns. A robot army, especially in terms of the 80s and 90s, is much more expensive to produce and maintain than a human army. BATs are also portrayed as dangerous to both friend and foe, which makes them a bit impractical, even though it’s a great bit of world building. Plus, the concept of semi-autonomous androids probably seemed just too “science fiction” for many GI Joe fans.
But I’m a fan of GI Joe because of its science fiction elements, and not in spite of them. So having robot troopers make up the bulk of Cobra’s army really worked for me as a kid. I still enjoy the concept of BATs to this day. And, as a general observation, a BAT figure almost always ends up being the best toy in every single GI Joe toy line. Kre-o, 25th Anniversary, Sigma 6– you name it. Every BAT is great.
You’ll see my childhood BAT in many of these photos. He survived the house fire with his gun attachment intact. I’ve since refurbished him a bit, and I’m glad he’s still with me. So, whenever you see a 1991 GI Joe BAT with a gun arm attachment, know that’s the one that’s been with me since 1991.
The BAT v2 isn’t very popular among people older than me. Even if they do like BATs as a concept, they easily prefer the 1986 original. I never had a chance to own one of those as a kid, and have only obtained some over the last few years. That toy is undeniably fantastic, but I have no nostalgia for it.
So, to me, the 1991 BAT is the Cobra BAT.
But, as we proceed to the review, I’ll try to objectively explore how he holds up to the original Battle Android Trooper.
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
1991 GI Joe BAT Review
The Battle Android Trooper version 2 was released in 1991, using all original parts. 1991 was the first year some GI Joe figures started including spring-loaded missile launchers, and the BAT’s packaging had a “Weapon Really Shoots!” callout.
The 1991 GI Joe BAT is cast primarily in black plastic and features both neon orange and neon green paint applications. Only three colors are used, but it’s a striking look. I think this figure is the exact reason why black and neon green are my favorite color combination. There are lots of cool little robotic details featured throughout the sculpt, and this looks like a full-blown android. Unlike the 86 version, this figure is not inexplicably wearing pants.
I am also in love with the head sculpt. Mike T famously used this figure as a pilot, but I can’t see it as anything other than a robot due to how the head is shaped. Even as a kid, I didn’t think you could fit a human head in there. I adore a good t-shaped visor (Boba Fett, Crusader: No Remorse, Vile from Mega Man X, etc) and the neon orange “face” against the all-black head looks striking and evil in equal measure.
The torso sculpt’s raised elements like the chest plate, the collar, and the orange detail that goes over the android’s shoulders are all fantastic. I also love the details on the glove cuffs and the boots. The 91 BAT looks like a streamlined, 90s-futuristic robotic killing machine. And that’s exactly what he should look like.
We’ll get to the accessories and the interchangeable hands in a moment, but first I want to address the chest sticker. When he was new, the 1991 GI Joe BAT came with a lenticular hologram sticker that covered his chest plate. When you moved the figure around, the mechanisms in his chest seemed to activate and come alive. When I was a kid, I would shift the figure around for minutes at a time and just observe the chest hologram. You can see how the original hologram looks over at 3DJoes.
Over time, though, the glue that holds the sticker on inevitably dissolves and the hologram falls off of the figure. Most specimens you see no longer have their stickers. You can see what the typical used v2 BAT looks like in several of my photos.
I’ve since replaced the stickers with a sheet of decals from ToyHax. They aren’t lenticular hologram stickers, but they do use a holofoil material that reflects the light nicely and just looks fantastic. If your BATs are missing stickers, I think ToyHax is the way to go.
The sticker sheet includes enough chest holograms for four BATs, along with some additional Cobra logos and holofoil decals for the BAT’s face visor. These are high quality stickers and they’re super easy to apply. Even I can do it.
Now, onto accessories. What’s a BAT without arm attachments?
The 1991 GI Joe BAT comes with a neon orange hand, a neon orange gun attachment, a black missile launcher attachment, a neon green missile, and a black figure stand.
Before we get into detail, I will mention that the 1991 BAT’s accessories are not compatible with the 1986 BAT. The reverse is also true.
The hand attachment is self explanatory. It exactly mirrors the non-removable left hand. It attaches solidly to the arm peg and can rotate, giving the BAT an extra point of articulation.
The gun arm, called a “grenade launcher” on the packaging, also attaches solidly and can be positioned however you want. I generally attach it with the “wire” section pointing down. We’ll go into the whole “grenade launcher” thing a little bit later in the review.
The final attachment is the BAT’s spring-loaded missile launcher. It doesn’t attach to the arm peg as well as the other two accessories, but it is much heavier than they are. I generally like to pose it in an “under arm” configuration, but you can also attach it so it functions like a standard, over-the-shoulder bazooka, too.
The missile launcher itself is great. It’s realistically sized and the neon green missile doesn’t poke too far out when it’s loaded. It’s completely believable, unlike some launchers from 1993 and 1994. It’s also more than a missile launcher! The launcher can attach to the figure’s back as a backpack, and it also includes two pegs to hold whichever arm accessories you’re not using at the time.
It’s not as fancy or compact as the 1986 BAT’s backpack, but it does show that Hasbro was still putting some thought and care into their figures in 1991.
I also really like all of the details on the launcher. For my money, the BAT v2’s launcher is one of the best in the toy line, rivaled only by Red Star, Eel v2, Sci-Fi v2, Mercer v2, Sci-Fi v4, and the 1994 Star Brigade Duke.
It’s a great accessory that was tailor made just for this figure.
The hand attachment is obviously quite useful. With it, the figure can borrow other weapons and be outfitted however you want it to be. With the added articulation, you might even be able to get some good rifle holding poses out of it.
The “grenade launcher” is my favorite attachment, and the only one I didn’t lose during childhood. I was very vigilant about keeping the accessory, as I felt the BAT was useless without it. I don’t see it as a grenade launcher at all, though. A grenade launcher only has a couple of shots and there’s no extra ammo stored anywhere on the figure. Also, having a grenade launcher and a missile launcher is a little redundant. You have maybe 3-4 shots and then you’re done. Dropping an expensive android onto the battlefield that’s useless after four shots does not make any sense to me. Even as a kid, I was not into the concept.
Instead, I used the grenade launcher attachment as a laser blaster. The Sunbow cartoon, my main source of GI Joe media as a kid, was all about lasers– so I was, too. Using the BAT’s gun attachment as a laser meant they had as many shots as they needed to thwart, terrorize, and pin down the GI Joe team. I can never see this arm attachment as anything but a laser gun.
The 1991 GI Joe BAT was a followup to 1986’s Battle Android Trooper. The 91 version has some continuity with the first figure and upholds its legacy nicely, but there are a ton of differences.
The 86 BAT had more arm attachments and more intricate sculpting. It feels like a “deluxe” figure in a way that few other GI Joe toys do. It’s a perfect action figure. In some ways, the BAT v2 can’t compete with it and I understand why someone who had a version 1 BAT as a kid might turn their nose up at the second version.
But I think that if you take the BAT v2 as its own figure, it’s a worthy update and nearly a perfect action figure on its own.
It was probably also cheaper to make, which is why Hasbro reused it a few times in the Repaint Era. Here it is with the BAT v2 (its actual name) and the Inferno BAT, both released in a box set in 2003.
The updated figures are both quite good, but the vanilla BAT loses a few points for not using bright silver for the face and chest details. It’s a good homage to the original BAT, but those color changes would have really elevated it. The Inferno BAT is a really cool figure that’s unlike anything else Hasbro has ever done. Why this set wasn’t more popular with collectors at the time, I will never know.
The 1991 BAT’s legs were also used for Street Fighter 2’s Zangief in 1993. That will never not be hilarious to me.
I’ve pretty much already described how I see the BAT working in the world of GI Joe and how the figure folds into a collection. These are android troopers, plain and simple. They’re not smart or cunning, but you can turn them loose on an enemy force and watch the battlefield dissolve into total chaos and devastation. I always kind of liked that a BAT might shoot a fellow Cobra unit, as well– it adds some more drama into any given scenario.
I also appreciate that Hasbro released the BAT commander, Overkill, the following year. That figure’s neon green and black matched up well with his android troopers. And, if you had both Overkill and his BATs on the battlefield at once, the BATs were smarter and less prone to friendly fire incidents. That’s how I played it out as a kid, anyway. And how I still see it now.
I don’t think BATs can really replace your standard Vipers and Cobra Troopers. They’d just be too expensive. Instead, I see them as a “special occasion” kind of trooper Cobra deploys when they need an overwhelming force. GI Joe can have a little BAT, as a treat.
Of course, I also love using BATs in photo scenarios, too. You can murder them in a billion different ways and it still barely qualifies as violence. 80s cartoon executives and network censors were smart in that one way.
This black and neon robotic idiot is one of my favorite GI Joe figures of all time. It looks great, has cool accessories, played a big part in my childhood, and provides the best kind of disposable cannon fodder for Cobra.
I fell in love with it on day one, and my childhood BAT is still an important part of my collection. How often does that happen?
Overall: The 1991 GI Joe BAT is an amazing figure. It may not measure up to the 1986 BAT in some ways, but it’s a worthy update that holds its own and does its own thing. The accessories are cool and well-thought-out. It has one of the best missile launchers in the entire ARAH toy line. It has a stunning design. And, to top it all off, it has the perfect color scheme. Highly Recommended.
Closing Thoughts on the 1991 GI Joe BAT
There’s a construction crew working in the alley behind my house right now. They also have three of the four streets surrounding my home closed off. They’re using heavy equipment and vibrating the ever-living hell out of my living room. At some point this morning, one of their power shovels or front end loaders severed my internet connection.
My internet company will not send a technician out until next Friday. I work from home at the moment and an internet connection is very important to my job.
I’m setting up with a new internet service provider in the morning. If you see this post before then, I guess my mobile hot spot was good enough to upload the images. If not, you’ll be seeing it on Friday after my new connection is set up.
I’m not even mad at the construction crew. They’re doing a sewer replacement project, which the city badly needs. I’m mad at my (former) internet provider for telling me to get fucked when I need to do my job.
Oh well, at least I have plastic robot dolls to soothe my soul.
Anyway, what do you think of the 91 BAT? Do you like the 86 original more? How do BATs work in your collection or in your GI Joe world? Let me know in the comments!