Cobra Eels (1985)
Ever since I rediscovered the Joe brand in high school during the relaunch era, I’ve been strangely fascinated with a few vintage figures I didn’t have as a kid. Usually, my figure tastes tend to skew towards ones I had as a kid because I have strong memories of them and, for the most part (save Battle Corps Muskrat), they were pretty solid figures. One of the figures I developed a fascination with was the original Cobra Eel. I liked that figure so much, I was all for the Joes Vs. Cobra Moray and Valor Vs. Venom Electric Eel figure because they both had some pretty strong stylistic ties to the vintage Eel even if they had their own unique drawbacks. When I saw the Eel in a baggie with other figures I had a passing interest in at a local garage sale, it made the decision to go after that particular bag of figures really easy.
The vintage Eel was released in 1985 and really benefited from just how much Hasbro had learned in three short years of producing the new kind of Joe figure. As befitting a diver, the Eel’s overall design is very sleek, but since he’s a Cobra, he’s also got a few fanciful, armored elements that make him look a little more intimidating. The base wetsuit is very well executed and looks realistic. He’s got added armored bracers, some shoulder armor and an armored collar and a high-tech dive helmet. Even without the accessories that plug into the front of the helmet, it still looks like it’s got a rebreather built into and that’s a great call. I also really love the little antenna that the Eel has sticking up off the right side of the helmet. Communicating underwater is difficult, so I love seeing that Cobra has some additional tech built into the helmet so the Eels can communicate easily while on mission. The armored collar piece is nice and really adds a little visual weight to the Eel’s design. I think that’s kind of why I was generally a little bored with some of the Joe divers compared to the Cobras. The Joes were realistic, almost to a fault. I remember being a little underwhelmed with KansasBrother’s vintage Wet-Suit figure. I thought my Battle Corps Wet-Suit was a little more interesting, mostly because of his removable helmet and great water sled, but I was still more drawn to KansasBrother’s Battle Corps Eel because the overall design was just so striking. The original Eel is just as striking and really withstands the test of time. There’s a reason everyone loves so many of the 1985 Cobras so much. They’re great figure and the Eel is definitely one of the best vintage figures out there.
The design is just part of what makes this figure so excellent, though. Hasbro also gave the premiere Cobra diver a striking and realistic color scheme. The lower half of the figure is fairly simple with a nice, light gray used on his legs with a little bit of black used on the knife sheath molded to his left ankle and a little more on the belt and codpiece. From the waist up, this figure gets far more interesting. The base of the torso and arms are black and the sculpted armor is done is a darker, slightly metallic gray. The center panel on the chest is done in red and there’s a silver Cobra sigil on the chest as well. Considering the play-worn nature of the garage sale finds, I’m pretty impressed that the silver has held up well over all the years. The red pops nicely against the black and compliments the dark gray quite well. There’s a little bit of red on the armor as well and it’s very crisply done. Up top, the head is mostly molded out of the dark gray plastic with a little Caucasian skin tone around his visible eyes. I do kind of wish some of the sculpted details on the helmet, most notably the light in the crest of the helmet and maybe the radio on the side of the helmet, would have gotten a little paint work, but that’s just a
personal thing. I think that making those details pop a little more would add something to the figure but them not being painted doesn’t detract from it.
Even without his vintage gear, the original Eel is an excellent figure and it’s hard not to be impressed with the design work Hasbro did on this figure back in the day. Yes, his gear would make him even more incredible, but even without it, the figure is superb. That can’t be said about all Joe figures out there, so it’s a testament to how well Hasbro designed the Eel that it can still function as a threatening Cobra diver without all his gear. The color choices are spot on, though I do wonder if a little dark blue instead of the black would make him look a little more Cobra-y, and the paint team did an excellent job on him. The paint work has held up well over the years, which is always a plus and the look is striking. Like some vintage figures from before my time, I’m comparatively new to my appreciation of the original Cobra Eel, but just because you’re late to the party doesn’t mean it’s a bad party.