Hi everyone. It’s been a bit since I’ve written something, so I thought I’d do something easy. Of course whenever I set out to do something easy, it always ends up being a ton of work and taking way longer than I anticipated.
I’m kind of in the process of selling my Modern Era GI Joe collection, so I thought I’d spend some more time with them before they go. That’s where I got the idea for this post. I also thought that maybe if I spent some more time with them then I’d want to keep them. That didn’t end up being the case. I did not have fun taking photos and posing figures for this post.
Still, I have to give Modern Era GI Joe figures some credit. Despite being fussy and fiddly, they are important to me. When the 25th Anniversary line hit in 2007, those figures ended up getting me back into GI Joe in a big way. I still loved my o-ring-style figures and never sold them off or got rid of them, but the 25th Anniversary line made me feel like a kid again. Over the years of collecting Modern Era Joe stuff, though, I realized the modern style’s limitations and turned back to o-ring figures.
As my friend RTG of Attica Gazette once said, “they’re generally good action figures, but they’re not generally good GI Joes.” And I agree. Despite the enhanced articulation, the range of motion is often bad. Accessories fall off and fall out of hands easily. You can’t just plunk them down on the table and expect them to stand up.
But still, they have their good points. And in this post I’m going to talk about 5 figures I’ll probably keep even when the rest make their way into someone else’s collection.
Honorable Mention – 2012 Dollar General Exclusive Line
The 212 Dollar General Exclusive GI Joe line was generally cheap and lazy. Yet it still gave us some figures we never would have otherwise seen in GI Joe’s Modern Era.
I absolutely love that we got figures that homage 91 Snake Eyes and 92 Storm Shadow. If those figures were better and had some real thought put into them, they might make the actual top 5. I still like them a lot, but they are pretty bare bones.
I also really enjoy that we got two versions of Shipwreck in his Devil’s Due look. It’s a great look for our favorite sailor that makes him suitable for more situations. He also came with a cool breathing mask/air tank accessory that really helped him stand out in a line where most figures came with just a weapon.
This line also gave me a Modern Era T’Gin-Zu, which I will always appreciate.
First Runner Up – 2007 25th Anniversary Snake Eyes v28
Many of the early 25th Anniversary figures had awkward proportions, ugly joint cuts, and bad articulation. They couldn’t even bend their elbows properly. The first 25th Anniversary Snake Eyes had none of those problems.
This was the best figure in the early line. He came with web gear to hold an extra knife and pistol, as well as his iconic uzi and demolitions purse. He also had a sword for good measure. Of the two early Snake Eyes looks, this is by far my favorite. I just love his classic Commando uniform, and this figure nails the sculpt and adds some much-needed color.
Also, the articulation actually does what it’s supposed to. His elbows and knees bend all the way, he can hold all of his accessories, and he’s easy to both stand and pose. He nails both fashion and function, even if he’s not as flashy as the 40 billion other Modern Era Snake Eyes toys that came after him.
The body mold worked well for Stalker, too.
Second Runner Up – 2009 Rise of Cobra Wallace “Ripcord” Weems v2
If you know me, you know I love power armor, removable helmets, and weird science fiction stuff. This figure delivers on all of those fronts. Casting a black man as a relative nobody like Ripcord also made certain awful people very angry, which I will always find hilarious.
The sculpt and paint on this figure are incredible. The Marlon Wayans likeness is also pretty good. The figure is also sturdy and moves quite nicely. I love the overall look of the figure.
The two-piece helmet allows for a few different configurations, and the figure holds a weapon quite nicely. The power armor scene in Rise of Cobra itself was somewhat entertaining, but also not great. The rest of the movie wasn’t all that much better, either. So I don’t love this figure because of its media appearance– I love it because it looks cool and it’s fun to play with.
This figure also holds some serious nostalgia value for me, just because of how heated the online Joe community got over Wayans playing Ripcord. It was a funny time. And, in hindsight, Wayans was the least of that movie’s problems.
#5 – 2013 Retaliation Cobra Commander v53
There were way too many versions of Cobra Commander released in the Modern Era of GI Joe. Many of them had this exact look. This figure used a new mold that was far less awkward and far more proportionate than what came before it, though.
The Retaliation line sneakily slipped some great “ultimate” versions of iconic characters onto store shelves towards the end. This Cobra Commander was one of them. It wasn’t based on a movie, cartoon, or comic book appearance exactly– it was just sort of the platonic ideal of Cobra Commander.
CC comes with a pistol, knife, some bombs, and a cool helicopter backpack with a nice blade-rotating gimmick. The helicopter backpack makes total sense for a born coward like CC– giving him an escape vehicle was a great touch. He also featured an alternate hooded head, so you could give him whichever look you wanted.
The shade of blue Hasbro used is also quite nice and the figure has great articulation. This is the best Modern Era Cobra Commander, as far as I’m concerned.
#4 – 2009 Rise of Cobra Agent Helix
I love getting new characters in a GI Joe toy line. Rise of Cobra gave us a few, most notably Agent Helix and Night Adder.
Helix’s sculpt and paint are incredible. You may not like the liberal use of yellow, but I sure do. Black and yellow are a great combination. Her head sculpt is also quite nice, with the two-toned hair giving her an instantly iconic look. Her outfit is maybe a little impractical, but the figure itself is very fun to look at.
Helix is basically inseparable from her two pistols, which are the weapons most people associate with her. And they’re cool little sci-fi guns, to boot. She also came with a machete, a Modern Era version of Headman’s rifle, and a multi-piece giant missile launcher. Okay, sure.
Helix is the one new character from the RoC line that’s been accepted by other Joe media. She was a main character in the very grisly ‘Silent Option’ comic, and seems to be a popular character for both photos and customs.
Plus, I think teaming her up with Retaliation Jinx and Pursuit of Cobra Quick Kick does make for a very nice silent weapons force.
Helix is a keeper.
#3 – 2013 Retaliation Blind Master v1
This is RZA as a GI Joe. Do I need to say more?
RZA is a noted fan of both martial arts films and GI Joe, so playing an important character in a GI Joe film must have been a dream come true for him. And while his acting in the movie isn’t the best thing ever, he is still a delight for every single second he’s on the screen.
The RZA likeness is really good and the figure comes with a ton of fun accessories. His staff has a hidden spear inside, his hat features fold-out blades, he has a flute and weird ominous black mask, and he comes with a flying guillotine. He also has a nine ring sword. Hasbro put some serious thought into this figure’s accessories and it’s great.
The figure isn’t much more than a statue, though– mostly because of the robes that block leg movement. But it’s an amazing looking figure with great gear that looks awesome on display. Plus, it’s RZA in GI Joe form and I’ve never wanted anything more than that.
#2 – 2013 Retaliation Kim Arashikage v3
Jinx is one of the best GI Joe characters and this is one of the best Jinx figures. She’s not outfitted in her iconic red costume, but there’s a reason for that. This figure comes from the best scene in Retaliation (or any live action Joe movie), where Jinx and Snake Eyes face off against a horde of Red Ninjas on some dangerous cliff sides. Since the Red Ninjas were wearing red, Jinx needed to wear something else.
Luckily, Jinx looks great in black and yellow. It’s a shame that every other Modern Era Jinx was locked behind a Collectors Club paywall, but at least the one available at retail was excellent. If Hasbro ever does a full o-ring wave at retail, a yellow and black Jinx absolutely needs to be among those figures. I’d take her red costume and blindfold look from later on in the film, too, honestly. Give me all of the Jinx figures is what I’m saying.
The figure has crazy articulation and is actually balanced and stable enough to use it well. She’s quite easy to pose and stand up. She also has her two swords and naginata, which are essential to the character. Beyond that, she comes with a billion other deadly weapons that fit into a cute little zipline briefcase. There’s nothing not to love here.
#1 – 2008 25th Anniversary BATs v17
A BAT is almost always a highlight of every toy line it appears in, and the 25th Anniversary BAT is my favorite Modern Era-style GI Joe figure.
The sculpt is brilliant– the head, the arms, and the clear chestplate with underlying detail are just perfect. The extra paint on the arms just makes it an even more beautiful piece. Plus, it has all of the classic BAT weapons and a removable holstered pistol that it can also use.
The articulation is perfect. Nothing is fiddly or fickle. It’s easy to get the pose you want and stand the figure. On top of that, both arms can be outfitted with the BAT’s extra hand attachments, so it can dual-wield both a flamethrower and a laser gun. It’s the classic 1986 BAT turned up to full volume.
I don’t like the figure more than either classic o-ring BAT, but I do like it more than any other Modern Era GI Joe action figure. To me, it’s a perfect action figure that is essential to my GI Joe collection.
If every other 25th Anniversary GI Joe toy disappeared tomorrow except for this one, I’d still be happy.
Thanks for joining me! Life is pretty busy right now with work, family, and the holidays. I’ll do my best to reply to comments as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience.
I haven’t been around as much lately just because I’ve been busy and mentally/emotionally exhausted. But, hopefully once we get through the holidays, I’ll resume a regular posting schedule.
Still, this has been the most productive year ever for The Dragon Fortress, which I’m pretty proud of and happy about.
Thanks to all of you for making 2021 a great year for toy-related ramblings and photos.
8 thoughts on “My Top 5 Favorite Modern Era GI Joe Figures”
I’m making my first proclamation here. We have officially entered into the “Retro Era” of G.I. Joe. Starting in 2020 and continuing until the next lull.
I refer to the 2007-2016 period as the Anniversary era. Though, I suppose that’s tough as the Retro Era could also be the 40th Anniversary. But, I think the Retro label better represents the intentions behind the line and also encompasses things like Super7 as well as Haslab.
I offer this because I didn’t collect Anniversary figures. I did think some of them were pretty strong designs and it’s a shame some of them weren’t ported back into ARAH style figures.
This post is extremely well timed… as I recently reached the same conclusion as you. I decided to liquidate my Modern Era collection and turn my attention back to my vintage Joes.
But dang. Those BATs are gorgeous figures. 🤩Easily the best of the best. I will miss setting up sacrilegious nativity scenes with them each xmas. (Cobra Commander dispatches the BATs to steal little baby Jesus from his manger. Which always works because Joseph has no military training and Mary gave birth to her son in a shed. BATs win every time.)
Anyway, the tipping point for me was binging thay Marie Kondo show on Netflix. You can’t watch it and not have her catchphrase rattle arou lnd in your head: “Does it still give you joy?” 🤷♂️🤷♂️🤷♂️ Ummm, weellll… here’s the thing:
– Modern Era Joes are too tall to fit in most vintage or Modern release vehicles and play sets.
– Their joints go loose pretty quickly if you play with them for any length of time.
– They never got Duke or Falcon right, which should be considered a high crime against GI Joe frankly.
– You can’t easily repair them or kitbash them like vintage o-ring figures.
Modern Joes are like the super hot girl you meet at bar. Sure, she’s fun to look at, but not much else clicks, and the relationship can’t sustain itself.
So 🤔 Final verdict? Do Modern Era Joes give me joy anymore? Honestly, I don’t think so. Not anymore. Now comes the tough part.
*makes dinner reservation*
*prepares break up speech*
“Hey, um, Modern Era figures? Ive been meaning to talk to you about something.”
“I think we should break up.”
“Why? …uh, how do I say this delicately? Well, the truth is, I think I might be getting back together with my ex. You understand, right? You’re a handsome collection. You’ll find someone out there who’s gonna love you for you, flaws and all. That person is just not me anymore.”
Perhaps the most savage thing of all is that I plan to keep all the Modern release vehicles. They were way cheaper than their vintage counterparts! 😅 Hasbro re-released a lot of the vintage stuff with slight color variations and no other changes. (Firebat? Rattler?) They fit/look good with vintage Joes. The skinnier footpegs on the Modern vehicles aren’t enough of a downside for me to get rid of them. (Maybe if the Haslab Skystriker is dope af, I’ll sell off my Modern Skystriker. But that’s it.)
So…yeah…I have no real idea of the o-rings are coming back for real for real. Assuming they do return, Hasbro still might f@*k it up. They don’t have a great track record. Remember the awkward pink-ish skin on the Repaint Era o-ring figures? They looked like sun-burned lobsters!🤢🤮Remeber the 2006 Viper Pit figures with auto-break crotches? 😭 Remember the new Cobra blue shirts, which looked super dope, but Hasbro glued their torsos together for no reason? 😱
I definitely hope 2022 is the year of the return of the o-ring figure. But if not I’ll be okay. I have my vintage collection, and it still gives me a lot of joy. :)))
I honestly think the Marie Kondo method is perfect for collectors like us. I was definitely taking that approach to my collection even before I ever watched it, and it also led to me breaking up with my Modern Era collection. Over the years I sold off absolutely all of it, even the vehicles, except for a lone 25th Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander as tokens of my enjoyment.
It feels great to cull stuff that doesn’t spark joy anymore, especially if you can then use the funds toward something in your hobby that does spark joy. Much of my Modern Era figure sales went toward pumping up my G1 collection, which I’ve been working on since I was five.
My list would probably have a totally different set of figures, and most of them would be from Pursuit of Cobra’s Jungle theme, but that just goes to show that there were plenty of standouts in this era.
I have a similar nostalgic attachment to this era. I picked up the first two 25th Anniversary 5-packs at a K-Mart. The first couple of single-carded figures were probably the last things I was ever able to buy from a Kay-Bee Toys. I was more engaged with Joe collecting in this era than I ever have been, before or after, even including childhood.
My interest started to wane around the time the 50th line was cooling off, and a couple years later I started culling. Between then and now I weeded the whole line down to just two figures, all for the same reasons you stated above, and I have no regrets. But I’m glad I was there for it.
I wanted that CC once but never found him in stores, not even Five Below which became a scalper go-to for later Retaliation waves (I saw Night Viper once and never saw the Cobra Combat Ninja, CC, Crimson Guard, and a few others). I know they reissued it for Walmart’s retro thing and is out there, but less accessories plus I heard there’s a scale-creep problem. He’s tall even by modern standards.
I have the BAT wanted to like it more. What hurts it is the deep set shoulders inhibiting some articulation.
I have that Jinx, she’s okay, but the reuse of the mold makes her wrinkly when her movie look was tiiiiight.
Have RZA, never opened him because that’s a problem I get into. Never opened the Night Viper I found or Cyber ninja, either.
THat Snake-Eyes was good, well, I have the single carded black release. He can sit (this was after the modded the crotch) and isn’t crazy tall. If all modern were his height, it would’ve been a better series.
Somehow you don’t have BEST TROOPER EVARRR “Cobra Shockwave” I mean Cobra Shock Trooper on your list. Oh, he’s good, but he’s a damned SWAT guy with a cobra logo. Also, his parts were over reused, he’s the 1984 Roadblock of modern. He also has a horizontal line across his mask that make him look like a muppet.
Also, those stupid single carded Cobra trooper stuck looking at the ground because Hasbro doesn’t care.
If I had a top five, Stalker would be there despite the wrong gun and mine still having the “diaper crotch”. And maybe Gnawgahyde from the Dreadnok set, which I only own by grace of garage sale God. Beyond that, I don’t know. I don’t have that many Modern/25th. They had some good figures, but also had some of the worst put together whatever-scale-they-claim-it-is GI JOE figures released (like Marauder’s Taurus whose legs cannot straighten)
Man, I didn’t even know they made a RZA Joe. That’s AMAZING.
Honestly I’ve stuck to alien car robots so long that I feel like I’ve missed the boat on Joe collecting several times now. Which is probably a good thing for both my wallet and my shelving space.
I love this…also, I can’t do it. My Modern era collection is pretty vast, and I got lucky on some very early purchases, so they’re gunna stick around. BUT – I go back and forth with my preferences. I even have a bunch of new-sculpt, and love them as well. What I need to do is kill off everything else I have laying around, taking up too much space.
What I’ve realized is that I have too much stuff in general – and I can’t enjoy it if I can’t get to it. So, a culling is definitely in order, but it starts outside of GI Joe.
That said – as for your top five. FUN! I think my favorite modern-era stuff is the Pursuit of Cobra waves. The red and black Alley Viper, in particular, is possibly the best Alley Viper ever made. I also love the Steel Brigade troops. And everything that came out of Resolute. RIP Resolute – gone too soon.
It was Resolute and my pal buying me the Snake Eyes Declassified comic that brought me back to Joe. For better or worse. (My wife has thoughts on that…)
Best to you, and Happy New Year!
I love the Native American
Spirit Iron Knife
Just wish you could get the
Eagle in the same package
They are so hard to find.
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