Monday, March 25, 2013

Baby You're a Firefly

1984 will always be known by G.I.Joe fans as the year when one of the most famous and iconic Cobra characters was introduced. Storm Shadow turned out to be a homerun for Hasbro as apparently EVERYBODY loves a ninja. For me however, I actually prefer another Cobra character that also made his debut the same year. He didn’t reach the same heights of popularity as Stormy or even the Baroness & Zartan also introduced that year but he has managed to maintain a low key cult following, which based on his speciality seems quite appropriate.

“No one knows what Firefly’s real name is or what he looks like. He is known by his work. Expert in all NATO and Warsaw Pact explosives and detonators. Always places his charges in the one place that affords maximum damage. There is no question about his infiltration skills since no one has ever reported seeing him enter or leave any target area.

Even Cobra Commander doesn’t know much about Firefly. His fees are paid into a numbered Swiss bank account and are always payable in advance. He makes no guarantees and gives no refunds.”

At first glance, looking at both card arts, Storm Shadow & Firefly do look somewhat similar since both have their faces concealed with masks and both due to the nature of their jobs lurk in the shadows. But that’s pretty much where their similarities end. They pretty much represent the opposite ends of the killing spectrum. Storm Shadow, being a ninja assassin, kills with silence and precision, while Firefly, a saboteur would rather blow things up with the loudest explosion and largest collateral damage possible.

Even as a little kid I instantly recognized and identified him as my favourite of the new batch of bad guys. Not because I enjoyed blowing things up mind you, he just LOOKED cool and I really liked the name Firefly. For some reason however, I never got his original action figure. But despite that, and the fact that he wasn’t really featured that much in the cartoon & the comics he has continues to probably be my favourite Cobra of all time.

Over the years, there has been a respectable number of Firefly action figures released, mostly good and some, well…you be the judge. Here are a few of my favourites as well as one that just deserves mentioning cuz it was just so wrong.

First we got the original one that was released in 1984. There’s nothing really much to say here except was a solid debut for a solid character. His accessories were simple, a nice submachine gun, a backpack with removable panel (nice touch) and a frustratingly easy to lose tiny walkie talkie.

In 1992, Hasbro tried to update Firefly’s look and unfortunately messed this one up big time. In the 90’s the Joes were losing ground to newer cartoons like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They tried to capitalize on the whole ninja craze by adding more ninjas to both Joe & Cobra ranks. And in the middle of this ninja craze, Firefly was not only “revealed” to be a ninja himself, but he got a snazzy predominantly neon green uniform to boot! PERFECT for hiding in the shadows. Actually with this get up, he’d fit in perfectly with the turtles!

For the 25th Anniversary of the line, the original version of Firefly got a few more modern updates. The first one unfortunately was more of a miss for fans as his camo uniform came out too light, and his web gear didn’t fit quite right as it looked like it was choking him. Plus, he looked pretty scrawny. They soon released a tweeked version which came out better, with darker coloring and new gear including a suped up backpack with additional tools to blow things up as well as some infared goggles. There were a few more versions released after but all of these were just slight tweeks or repaints of these first two.

Also notable are two versions of Firefly based off his appearances in the two most recent G.I.Joe cartoons, Resolute in 2009 & Renegades in 2010. These designs were departures from the original version but don’t stray too far from the classic Firefly elements. They’re nice for what they are but don’t really push any real boundaries. Oh well, at least neither of them are green….

Speaking of pushing boundaries, The Pursuit of Cobra version of Firefly, released in 2010 sort of re-invents or re-interprets Firefly while still keeping him instantly recognizable. While the original version was nice for what it was, by today’s standards it can look pretty dated. This version builds upon that original concept giving him a more modern (almost futuristic) uniform with extra padding & armor for protection from blasts as well as a working backpack, a couple of mines and two very unique head sculpts. The first one is closer to the original except it’s no longer a simple cloth balaclava but something more solid & defined. The second head is even better as it is a total departure from anything given to him before. I really don’t know how to describe it and will just let the pictures speak for themselves….this is definitely one of my favourite versions of Firefly.

And it doesn’t stop there. This year, Firefly is FINALLY going to be getting some due recognition in a big way. He’s going to be featured heavily in the new G.I.Joe Retaliation movie and will be played by the awesome Ray “THIRTEEEEEEEEEEEN” Stevenson.

In line with that we get two more versions of Firefly. The first is another slight departure from the original recipe. The main difference is that he’s sporting a green jacket that luckily isn’t neon so I’ll let that slide. Plus it’s got a nice painted design on the back. Another plus is that it comes with a cool head sculpt based on Ray Stevenson.

The second one brings us back full circle as it is basically a redo of the original 1984 Firefly except this time done RIGHT. Unlike the 25th version, this one is the right shade of gray and has perfectly fitting web gear. It’s ALMOST perfect as the head sculpt should have had more detailing in my opinion. But you can’t win them all, anyway like with many Joe characters with multiple versions, you can basically mix and match heads, accessories & weapons till you come up with the ideal version that YOU want. However way you go, when it comes to Firefly, all that’s important is that he ignites the light and lets it shine and that he owns the night like the 4th of July…..cuz baby he’s a…….