Alley Viper (1989)
The first time I saw the original Alley Viper was at a flea market in the early 90’s. I had been out of GI Joe collecting for a few years, and had not yet discovered the wonderful Tomart’s guide that would present me with pictures of all the Joes and Cobras I had missed. The figure was sitting in a small wicker basket along with other Joe figures, some of which I recognized and others I didn’t. I was intrigued by the figure, and picked it up to look at it. When I did, I also noticed the price tag on it. 18 bucks?! For a loose figure without accessories that could only be a couple of years old? Sheesh! I quickly tossed it back into the basket and moved on. These sorts of things still happen from time to time at flea markets, and I’ll never understand what possesses some dealers to put on rose colored glasses when pricing toys.
Stepping off my soapbox, I still find the Alley Viper every bit as intriguing as I did back then. When I later found out the figure’s name and specialty, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. At the time I had left GI Joe collecting, other than the Crimson Guard, there were still only a couple of basic infantry troopers: the standard Cobra and the Viper. The concept of an urban fighting specialist was foreign to me. Add the fact that said urban trooper was outfitted in orange and blue, and further, that he wore a helmet that looked like it provided absolutely no way for his vision to function, and I was one confused collector.
Despite the overall strangeness, the Alley Viper is a fun and fascinating figure. Once I had a complete example, I was hooked on the figure. Appropriately armed and armored for urban operations, the mold is wonderfully detailed. The weapons are unique and just as detailed, and the rifle, though a bit unwieldy to hold, is interesting. The shield and backpack are among my favorite accessories of the era. Too bad the grappling hook rifle attached to the backpack isn’t removable.
Overall, I still love this mold, and it’s one of my “desert island” picks. It harks back to the 80’s Cobras’ blend of the military and fanciful. Being weird yet plausible, the Alley Viper walks that fine line with aplomb.