G.I. Gary Classic Toy Review – The 1989 Cobra H.E.A.T. Viper
Code Name: H.E.A.T. Viper
Cobra Bazooka Man
“The new generation of Cobra anti-tank specialists are equipped with the latest in hyper-kinetic, high-speed, wire-guided, armor-piercing technology. The harness suppported launch tube has active heat vents and an infra-red suppressor to cut down detection hazards. The sighting system is fiber-optically linked to the operator’s helmet which contains range-finders, trajectory computers and image intensifiers. This allows the H.E.A.T. Viper to fire his weapon from behind cover under adverse visibility conditions.
“You gotta hand it to these guys. It takes a lot of nerve to squeeze off a hand-held rocket at 60 tons of rolling G.I. Joe armor and sit still while hoding the tracker sights on target to guide in the projectile. If he misses with the first shot, there isn’t a G.I. Joe worth his salt who’ll let that poor fool try for seconds! A proverbial world of hurt is gonna hit that Cobra like a ton of bricks!”
-Taken from the file card
Cobra H.E.A.T. Viper
Version 1, 1989 Hasbro G.I. Joe
This is one of my favorite Vipers. Beneath those yellow and purple colors is a character that’s the Cobra equivalent of the Joe’s Bazooka. Cobra’s advantage here is that they have an army of this guy, and he’s better equipped. Obviously there’s strength in numbers. A platoon of these anti-tank infantry Vipers could stop, or at the very least slow, an advancing armor column. As infantry, their movement could go almost unnoticed while getting in position. They can fire and change position before their targets can react. As for technology, they’ve got some upgrades. Wire guidance has its roots all the way back to the 19th century with torpedoes, and traditional infantry TOWs (Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-Guided) require the soldier to keep eyes on the target. Cobra has upgraded with the optical sight alongside the bazooka and transmitting the data to the Viper’s helmet, so he can keep his head behind cover.
This is a character I wanted when I was a kid. My first awareness of him was the cover of Marvel’s Issue 130 when Cobra Commander storms the G.I. Joe headquarters, “The Pit.” Here was a guy that would have fit in with my play patterns of my 1992 self. I could see him knocking out my H.A.V.O.C. and Brawler forcing the armor Joes into infantry on the front lines. However, the problem was he was long gone from pegs at that point, only around for 1989 and 1990. He could fit in during an urban or wilderness battle. Being mobile he could be running in city alleys terrorizing the streets, or ducking for cover behind trees and other natural cover.
Some may point out that he’s yellow and purple. Yes, it’s not ideal in our adult minds, but part of G.I. Joe as kids was the colors. Every character stood out like superheroes on a team, easily identifiable. Everyone had different specialties and it’s fun making your own team for the missions. The yellow and purple can still work for the mature person. Dirty up the uniform, he keeps his signature look and identity. A good example of that is the cover of issue 130. He was colored with a more orange tint, and doesn’t look out of place amongst the purple SAW Viper or brown Frag Viper. He works with most of the other GI Joe figures from ’85+, as the fantasy colors really took hold then. (Remember, the Joes have a pretty lax dress code, Bazooka wore a red football jersey!)
Issue 130, November 1992
There’s some great design elements in the mold. The outfit has plenty of subtle uniform folds that give it a garment look while being plastic. The torso webbing has a nice texture while the front purple stripe has a similar feel and look. The bazooka is very nicely crafted with lots of detail incorporated into the mold. It looks very futuristic and potentially functional. It has “Fang” molded on the left side which seems more like a nickname the H.E.A.T. Viper painted on it, rather than a reference to the early Cobra helicopter. The hose that connects the bazooka to the helmet is also full of detail and connects wonderfully between the two elements. The backpack has a nice look to it, with simulated bolt heads and potentially one missile and perhaps a cleaning tool. Each of the 6 missiles around the lower legs have small fins and still allow the leg to bend fully when put on the figure. There’s a silver pistol on the right thigh in a purple holster and the boots are two tone, purple and dark grey. The dark grey gives an industrial feel with a heavy toe, and a strap that runs across. This same paint is used for the gloves.
The action figure itself has some concerns, because it’s molded in yellow plastic. The yellow plastic is known for two things, it’s brittle and paint doesn’t stick to it. And when going through my personal figures for this article, I found a couple examples of each. There’s 2 pegs for the two hoses, one over the right shoulder, and the left side of the helmet. There’s also the legs, with the stanchions for the bazooka ammo. Finally, the yellow elbows are prone to cracking, while the paint is known to easily rub off. Basically, anywhere you touch this is a problem area. The most notable spots are where the hose plugs into the shoulder, the purple boot stanchions, and the hands. Just slipping in the bazooka to the hands is going to wear the paint off. One thing I have noticed is that the metallic used for the helmet visor seems to do well. Silver paint is notorious for wear on other earlier figures (the original helmeted Cobra Commander, and the original Viper).
There are few issues I have with the design. First, the two hoses that go from the bazooka to his body make posing a little awkward. The sight hose that goes from the front of the bazooka to his helmet seems well placed and makes sense for the features outlined on the file card. However, the standard black hose that goes to the right shoulder seems redundant. Maybe the idea was that it was an extension of the backpack, but with the backpack in place, the idea doesn’t flow. This brings us to the backpack that seems small compared to the figure and the other accessories. It has either an exhaust port, or a bracket to help hold the bazooka on the left side. It can do either depending on your imagination, but it really does not fit each idea, which is unnerving. Next we have the ammo storage on the lower legs. With six easily loseable missiles on them, it seems like awkward storage at best. We have stated that those stanchions are prone to breaking, and the play of the figure can wear the paint there, but it would reason, that there would be better areas to put his ammunition. Unless every day is leg day for the H.E.A.T. Viper, having the backpack holding the ammo or even, the outside of the thigh, or maybe something across the chest or arms would make more sense. And there is the lost opportunity of the bazooka actually using (or pretending to use) the ammo. Finally there is the impractical looking helmet. Like a futuristic prototype “Need to speak to the manager haircut” it covers half the face. It’s probably meant to protect the soldier, and it performs its duty well, it just looks bulky and heavy.
Overall, he’s a great figure with his other 1989 contemporaries. A year that brought us six army builders for the Cobra forces. He fits in with earlier figures because Hasbro moved on from the “realistic soldier” look early on in the line, with some glaring examples starting in 1985 and especially 1986. A solid figure that belongs in Cobra’s ranks, ready to cause global destabilization, and a decent threat for G.I. Joe. As such, he rates a solid 5 out of a 6 pack for G.I. Joe collectors everywhere.
Until next time!