Darklon and Evader (1989)
I guess the general theme of this next series of Field Reports would be something along the lines of reclaiming my lost childhood. Between Joe Con in 2009 and an amazing find at my comic shop on my birthday in 2010, I finally filled some holes in my vintage collection that were things I wanted when I was a kid but could just never seem to find on the store shelves. I still have a great deal of respect for the vintage line, however, what’s currently on display in my collection is mostly modern stuff because that’s what I have easy access to and as someone who has always been twitchy when it comes to online shopping, I’ve never really gone whole hog into using eBay to fill gaps or replace accessories long lost in the ether.
With that said, the first review will focus on a set I’ve wanted probably since 1990, Darklon and the Evader. Destro and the Iron Grenadiers were hands down my favorite group growing up. I even remember being allowed to break the December toy embargo by my parents once in my life and that was to get Destro and the Despoiler. Once that was added to my collection, Destro was in it and that version of Destro remained a favorite piece until I stored many of my old toys sometime after graduating high school. My love of the Iron Grenadiers extended to Darklon and the Evader too. I didn’t know anything about the set because I didn’t see it on shelves, but those product catalogues said it was part of the Iron Grenadiers and so I wanted it. I always tended to default to the smaller vehicles as my favorites for some reasons, save some very rare exceptions. I think that’s why the Evader appealed to my kid brain more than the Razorback. As a kid, larger vehicles meant more time used to set up and less time used to play. Later learning that Darklon was Destro’s cousin (though I have no idea how since this was before the Internet, I didn’t read comics yet at that time in my life and I don’t recall any of my friends having it) only cemented the set’s coolness to me. However, it never showed up when I was looking for it, so it eluded me. Fast-forward 19 years, and on the dealer floor at Joe Con, I had a very modest list of things I wanted to find. While I was definitely looking around to replace the missing pieces on my brother’s Tomahawk, the first two things I needed to find were a loose Darklon and loose Evader and I’m pretty sure they were my first two purchases on the dealer floor.
First and foremost, I will admit Darklon’s design is kinda weird. The colors clash badly and the
asymmetrical boots are a little strange. However, as a person who likes toys regardless of their color schemes, I thought he was neat. The mask was very intimidating and he gave off a Destro vibe, except where Destro was honorable, Darklon was more of a thug. I’m sure if I’d gotten Darklon when I was a kid, he would have been used as Destro’s primary bodyguard and enforcer. When you add in the really cool weapon that I consider some sort of heavy machine gun, it really sells the concept that Darklon is a tough guy you don’t want to mess with. Honestly, if I had any real skill with painting, I would seriously consider trying to repaint Darklon using the color scheme the Collectors’ Club used for the M.A.R.S. Invades con-set, but I don’t want to run the risk of messing up Darklon by doing a poor job repainting him.
While he may look goofy, the Hasbro designers definitely crammed a lot of detailing in his figure and I appreciate that. I like the shoulder armor and the wrist protector and you have to admire anyone who dresses the way Darklon does who also wears an armored codpiece to protect the family jewels. The boots, while a little odd considering they’re asymmetrical (Seriously, what did he do find two different boots on the side of a road in Darklonia and go “Sweet, they’re the same color!” and just decide to roll with it?) also have quite a bite of detailing on them. I find the grenades wrapped around his right leg to be a little odd, but at the same time, again it lends a little more to image I have of Darklon as a thug. Those grenades being there are just as much about intimidation as they are about use. However, I think his big knife strapped to his left leg is probably even more intimidating considering that sucker runs nearly the entire length of his tibia and fibula. Something I just noticed while actually looking at the photos I took of Darklon is that the foot detailing even goes as far as to show that he’s wearing some form of strange cowboy boot. He’s got the traditional Joe flat foot, but careful inspection of the foot shows they sculpted in a spot to represent the heel of a cowboy boot…or at least I’m hoping they’re cowboy boots. Finally, I don’t know what it’s supposed to represent, but Darklon’s torso and arms have a strange texture on it. I’d almost say it’s like a commando sweater, but considering how well-defined his torso musculature is, that can’t be the answer. Regardless of what it’s supposed to represent, it’s definitely a unique texture and is a nice artifact of the era where Hasbro actually paid attention to vehicle drivers instead of throwing parts together and repainting them to make drivers. As another Joe Con-related aside, I was shocked at how hard it was to actually find a Darklon on the dealer floor. For a figure that gets mocked as roundly as he does (even by guys like me who really do love the figure), there weren’t a lot of samples out there on the floor. I realize being a vehicle driver means he had a smaller production run, but considering that the Evader was a relatively inexpensive vehicle, I would imagine there were a lot of kids that wound up with it.
Darklon’s equally wacky ride, the Evader, is a nice, small Joe vehicle. However, while I like it, it definitely requires a bit more suspension of disbelief than most Joe vehicles. To begin with, a hallmark of Joe vehicles was that they almost all had some sort of control stick or steering wheel to put the figure’s hands on while driving. The Evader does not…which creates a bit of a problem steering unless he somehow steers it using the large guns he’s also holding on to. If they’re not part of the same mechanism, then Darklon has to take his hands off the imaginary steering system to fire the Evader’s primary weapons. The roof-mounted missiles also create a bit of a problem because any of the little consoles inside the vehicle are kind of out of his reach while he’s sitting in it. The colors on it are great since it’s hard to go wrong with black and gold. It definitely fits the motif that had been established with most of the Iron Grenadier vehicles of the time. It’s just a shame that the figures in that subset didn’t all follow suit with a unifying color scheme (Darklon’s a fashion offender, but so are the Annihilators). The vehicle mold is very well-detailed and though in a perfect world, a third color for some of the engine parts to make them stand a little better would have been nice, it still looks very cool and the details are crisp enough that they don’t really get lost in translation. I also really enjoy the fact that they gave this vehicle a seatbelt. I don’t know how much sense it makes from a design perspective to put a seatbelt in a vehicle when it doesn’t have a control stick of any sort. I’ve always wondered at why Joe vehicles started putting those seatbelts in. I know I never really used them and on the Evader, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to belt the driver in. It’s a very small and fast vehicle that feels to me like a heavily armed motorcycle and if anything, side walls would increase driver safety more than a seatbelt. Despite requiring a bit more imagination than other Joe vehicles, it’s a nice, sleek fast-attack vehicle that I could see causing all sorts of problems if it were attacking the back end of a Joe convoy or a small Joe outpost. Conversely, it’s also a nice escape vehicle that Darklon can use to escape a battle that’s going south.
Overall, Darklon and the Evader is a set I’m definitely glad to have in my collection. I don’t know if I would’ve tracked it down if it hadn’t been a white dolphin (like a white whale only smaller) in my collection, but it’s definitely nice. I can appreciate what the designers did with Darklon and even though his colors are a bit out there, there are also worse-colored figures in the line so I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. The Evader itself is a fun toy that can be used in a lot of different capacities on the battlefield
and that’s something I’ve always appreciated about the smaller vehicles.
such a dumb vehicle… it was too over the top even for the Iron Grenadiers standards
Darklon’s colors bug me and they always did. The repaint from the Bronze Bombers line made the figure seem cohesive and intimidating finally.
Great review, K.B. I just noticed from the bird’s-eye view how the top of the vehicle resembles the infamous Cobra symbol. Maybe this vehicle was designed for Cobra before the Iron Grenadiers came along? The seatbelts are probably there to offset the lack of a steering wheel or control stick as the figure would fit in too loosely otherwise. To me, the seatbelts were a sign that Hasbro was slowly cheapening out on the vehicle molds somehow.
Darklon himself eluded me completely since I was taking a breather from collecting in ’89. I think he would have worked better in Destro and the IG’s iconic black, red, and gold colors. The amount of detailing on the figure is impressive, though. I eventually landed a vintage Darklon not long ago after Larry Hama took a second crack at him in the comic. He just might turn into a fan favorite this time around.
Great review, Kansas! I need to find Darky’s rifle and I’m all set.
I’d never noticed the Cobra motif on it but you’re right. Recently, I’d chalked up the weird look to the fact that YoJoe shows some preproduction art of a Cobra-La vehicle called the Insectcycle that has some similar stylistic influences. (http://www.yojoe.com/archive/unproduced/insecticycle.shtml) and what’s really interesting is that Nullifier (the original Cobra-La refugee) was supposed to be its driver. Interesting how another possible Cobra-La item wound up in the Iron Grenadier faction.
I never took Darklon too seriously. He looked as though he was wearing the wordls worst Darth Vader costume.
He spent most of his time in the comics trying to sneak across a border in a corvette [i think]
Than in recent years he killed LadyJaye. I can certainly see why most fans hate him
I feel Darklon gets too much hate, and I think that’s mainly from the “every Cobra character introduced after 1985 or 1986 sucks” crowd, the same ones that hate all the 1987 Cobras (though Croc Master finally gained acceptance to some).
I also disagree he should’ve been in “Iron Grenadiers” colors, which for some means black with red and gold (they choose to ignore the khaki on Ferret and Nullifier and the fuschia on Voltor and Nullifier). If you want the IG’s to be a team where everyone and every vehicle looks alike, I guess that’s fine. To me, that makes them boring. No, I don’t like Annihilator’s colors, but I don’t mind the blue on TARGATs.
Darklon’s green shirt was some sort of chain mail. This guy rules some obscure small European country and is said to have a cast-iron castle. He’s some eccentric weirdo, as many cool villains are. He may be GI JOE’s Dr. Doom.
Thanks for pointing out what that texture was supposed to be. Chainmail does make sense considering he’s in such an open vehicle and you’d want some sort of light protection.
@Bravo IMO some of Cobra’s coolest characters were post-1986, a lot of my favorites were from late in the line
Weird weird, weird…I don’t know much about the character but I love the Darklon figure and his crazy recumbent motorcycle.
Awesome review! Great Darklon!
I read somewhere that Darklon’s machine gun was in fact a dart gun.. anybody knows what it is exactly?
Darklon is in here for his distant family connection to Destro. I’m a big fan of the Iron Grenadiers.
I was considering “army building” the Evader at one time. While I ultimately traded it off, I concluded it is a simply an armored street motorcycle. What better vehicle to get around in on old, narrow city streets? In my mind, I envisioned multiple Evaders roaming like gangs of outlaws on horseback into unsuspecting villages and cities. The Evaders front rounded armor is very protective, and the agile two-wheeler would be hard to hit…., and the engine is huge, which leads me to believe it is very fast. The driver of an Evader can raise the shell and jump forward to keep a direct frontal assault going, too.
(take that light cycle!)
I think Darklon is pretty good in colors as is, in that like Voltar, Darklon isn’t really an Iron Grenadier. Rather they are both mercenaries, and as such, I would not think they would jump in line and match up with Destro’s modern Iron Grenadier troopers.
Both Darklon and Voltar are quite skilled and powerful personalities in their own right. Each ones greed and ambition are only bested by Destro.
I should add, I think the relationship between Destro and Darklon (and Voltar) is much like that of Cobra Commander and Major Bludd (and Zartan).
I remember it as a dart dun too. I think it was shown as such in one issue of the original Marvel run, subduing Road Pig but I’d struggle to find the reference.
Good spot about the Insecticycle. I bet it was the same chassis but with a different cover. I think I feel a custom brewing…
Don’t worry mate, the only one to kill Lady Jaye was a Red Shadow and that’s been disavowed. She was badly injured during Darklon’s capture but not by that drongo, in fact he was shot too, but both survived. I think she’ll be on the cover of the next issue of RAH been threatened by your countryman Sebastian Bludd…
Darklon is a bit… weird. That head makes him seem like a Cobra-La exile. The colors are garishly mismatched (lime green, red, orangish brown, and black) though at least aren’t neon. 1989 overall had some interesting color choices to say the least. I agree, he did give a Destro-like vibe, only more “thuggish” as stated. His vehicle is goofy, though seems to fit in more with the oddball stuff from 1987 (think Buzz Boar, Pogo). In a way, the vehicle seems to reflect that thug demeanor (a pimped out ride?), the classless counterpart to the classy Destro. The masks say the same, a plated chrome/gold face mask vs. a medieval doctor’s like mask.
You know, for as popular as that category has been (the small boxed figure with a personal chariot), I too didn’t see Darklon very much. I would assume that meant he was selling well as if they weren’t, they would be shelfwarmers. The only one I recall seeing well-stocked was Zanzibar (which might’ve been due to the big 1987 slowdown the toy industry saw). All from Serpentor thru Overlord seemed to fare very well (I was too late for Zartan).
@Bravo I thought of chainmail too. The color seems off, but it makes me think of that picture a San Jose Sharks fan made- chainmail with the team logo and colors on it.
Looking at the front view, the Evader looks like a shoe with lacework up the center! (look at the black part) The gold part going around the side and backs looks a bit like a lady’s heel. That singular back wheel almost invokes the heel spike.