Locked and Spring-Loaded
April 1, 2013

The times, they are a-changin’. Those of us who collect 3¾” action figures have seen articulation reduced in some lines to keep prices down around $6, while fully articulated figures cost in the neighborhood of $10. Green Lantern, STAR WARS, The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 3, Ultimate Spider-Man, and even G.I. JOE: Retaliation vehicle drivers have all the posing potential of a 1978 Luke Skywalker. As a collector, there are positives and negatives to be found in this new strategy. One obvious positive is that collectors still have options with a fantastic balance of sculpted detail and articulation in the single-carded G.I. JOE releases, Marvel Universe, and the forthcoming STAR WARS Black Series. Another positive is that $6 options in the action figure aisles help keep toys affordable for parents, and the significance of that for the future of action figure collecting cannot be exaggerated. Someday, many of the kids whose moms are buying them $6 Iron Man and Spider-Man figures will graduate to buying their own $10 Marvel Universe figures. The flip side, of course, is that we have fewer options for action figures featuring the full range of articulation we’ve enjoyed over the last several years.

Other trends include fewer weapons and accessories being packaged with some figures and a lack of stands. While it may bother some hobbyists, this is one direction with which I’m entirely at peace. I end up replacing most of my 3¾” figures’ weapons with items from Marauder “Gun-Runners” anyway. If I need stands, Marauder has those, too. But there is something I’d like to see packed with the figures more often, and so to toy manufacturers, I make my plea:

Flash and Roadblock launchers


Or in proper English, keep those spring-loaded launchers coming. And not just any spring-loaded launchers, but specifically more like those in the photo above. I’m not sure who was the first to get this launcher, but these two were packaged with G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra Flash (top) and G.I. JOE: Retaliation Roadblock (bottom) from the Ninja Dojo Battle pack. Unlike many of the “rocket-firing” toys that come with various figures, these are of the shoot-your-eye-out-with-that variety. Some won’t even knock over a figure at point-blank range, but these suckers are ready to go to war. Displaying action figures on a shelf is great, but sometimes you just need to take the troops into combat, and PEW! PEW! sounds are no substitute for an actual projectile. Shooting your toys is fun. Don’t believe me? Pull out those launchers you tossed in a drawer and give it a shot (har, puns). Or just watch how much fun my friend and I have blasting away at a few figures.

[youtube width=”480″ height=”360″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2okV2OHB00[/youtube]

The first launchers we tested were the ones pictured above. I understand why Kenner backed off on the rocket-firing Boba Fett back when 3¾” figures were still the new kids on the block. Now that these are common toys, though, I’d love to see more with the kind of firepower these particular weapons offer. It only took three minutes or so to lose one of the rockets, which is another reason I’d like to see them included more often. They end up ricocheting and going everywhere, so it’s to be expected that a day of play will mean a few plastic missiles get left behind. We found it later (hiding on a shelf behind some DC Direct New Gods), but we added another launcher in the meantime. Our next subject came with the G.I. JOE: Retaliation Joe Colton figure (also included with the wave 1 Duke in different colors).

Joe Colton launcher

While definitely not as powerful as our other launchers, the multi-fire feature on this beast pretty much guarantees you’re going to make contact and send someone toppling. You can pull the ripcord slowly to take careful aim, or you can really let the missiles fly by pulling quickly for a rapid-fire burst. But hey, figures aren’t the only toys that come with spring-loaded launchers. How about some vehicles?

Ninja Combat Cruiser

Most of the Ninja Combat Cruiser was previously released as the Pursuit of Cobra V.A.M.P. in 2010 and the 30th Anniversary V.A.M.P. MK-II in 2011. This new edition features a covered back, opening doors, and the four-rocket launcher that was originally part of the Pursuit of Cobra Wolfhound. As you can see in the video, the slider launching mechanism on a stationary vehicle makes it a bit easier to get in sync and hit your targets more effectively. In addition to their inclusion with action figures, more spring-loaded launchers on future vehicles will continue to add play value, too.

This makes for a great summer activity. When it’s already 98 degrees outside and plastic is heating up inside your house, despite the best efforts of your air conditioner, some of your figures are already going to be falling over. Why not have some fun with it and make an example out of those troublemakers?

Shoot your toys. It’s a blast!

Jon "Caped Crusader" Edwards
Born in April of '77, Jon quite literally grew up with STAR WARS. His mother took him to see it barely two months later and started buying him the figures before he was even old enough for them. G.I. JOE and Super Powers came along in the '80s, and an action figure addict was created. The moment he decided he was "too old" to play with his toys, he started to collect carded figures, beginning with Super Powers. No longer in possession of the toys or comics of his childhood, he rediscovered collecting with The Phantom Menace, and has moved on from STAR WARS to JLU, DC Direct, G.I. JOE, Marvel Universe, and various characters from movies, television shows, and comics.
Read other articles by Jon "Caped Crusader" Edwards.





  • Bill says:

    Thanks for the great review. Just got to love them. I’ve been looking for something like that that’s not too powerful or dangerous to use. Who says kids don’t use their imagination any more. This big kid still does!

  • Shellhead says:

    Could not disagree with you more. Eliminate these goofy, out of scale accessories and spend the money on giving figures their elbows and knees back! I’ve lost track of how many of those stupid launchers I’ve tossed out in the past 10 years.

  • Hobgoblin238 says:

    Exactly Shellhead. I hate those ridiculous accesssoires. They are terrible. Give me articulation anyday!

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Although they were controversial to many Joe collectors, the era where Hasbro put Nerf missiles on the Joe vehicles is still one of my favorite missile launching eras.

  • He-Mullet says:

    If given the choice of articulation or Missile Launchers 9 times out of 10 I’ll choose Articulation. I dislike the ridiculously oversized missile launchers that kinda look like 6″ figure weapons for 3 3/4″. Besides most of them are puny.

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