MARS Invades Iron Anvil
It’s once again KansasBrawler confession time. Hi, I’m KansasBrawler, and I love the 90s era Joe figures. I love everything about them. The sculpts are really solid and I think had they not been saddled with crazy color schemes and underdetailed paint work, they’d be a lot more loved than they are. Hasbro learned that lesson when they gave the poorly named (and poorly colored) Ice Cream Soldier a blue and red makeover and turned him into the Cobra Shock Viper. The GIJCC took a page from Hasbro’s playbook for the M.A.R.S. Invades con set and gave the awesome 1994 Viper a far superior paint scheme and turned him into the Iron Anvil. These two figures prove that there were some great Joes coming out even up until the end of the line. They just get lost in the shuffle of ninjas and crazy colors. However, if you’re willing to take a little time and look at the figure itself, they’re great pieces.
I had the 1994 Viper growing up and I loved that figure. Yes, he was primarily purple and orange, but I really didn’t care. The overall design was striking and it really appealed to my kid brain. When I first saw the Iron Anvils online in the summer of 2005, I was so excited and so pissed. I was excited because I felt that mold was finally getting the respect it deserved but I was pissed because it was happening in an expensive set that I didn’t think I could ever get my hands on. The 1994 Viper mold is a bit more futuristic than the vintage Viper and I think that’s part of why it works so well as an Iron Grenadier figure. Destro’s troops have always been a bit more cutting edge and the Iron Anvil definitely has that vibe. At its core, the mold looks like a sleek bodysuit with a high tech vest over the chest and a high tech helmet worn over the head. The legs and arms are relatively simple, with few details on them. I don’t think that’s a strike against the figure. It just reinforces the idea of the Iron Anvil wearing a sleek, high-tech bodysuit. There’s a funky panel on the front of his right leg that I’m not really sure of its purpose, but beyond that, the legs’ detailing is solid. There’s a knife sheath on his right leg and a pouch on his left leg. It’s not much, but it fits the design well. The legs also feel a bit armored and there are some details on the side that look like they could absorb shock and I love that because of the Iron Anvil’s filecard. The filecard mentions that the Iron Anvils often deploy into the field without opening their parachutes as a psychological tactic and that their battlesuits allow them to do so with relative ease. I very much like how the GIJCC wrote the filecards to reflect some of the figure’s design features. The arms are also rather sleek, consisting of forearm length gloves and bands around his biceps. While the arms are sleek, they’re also rather muscular. The Iron Anvil definitely looks a bit tougher than some of his vintage counterparts because he’s so strongly built. The chest piece looks like a high tech bullet proof vest. There are pouches wrapped around his abdomen that go around to his back. On his left pec, he’s got some sort of tech panel and there’s an insignia over his right pec. The shoulders are a bit pointy and there’s a zipper sculpted down the center of the figure’s chest which reinforces the idea that the chest piece is actually a vest worn over his bodysuit. Finally, topping off the figure, I have to talk about the amazing head sculpt. The classic Viper helmet was pretty basic, but the 1994 version was a bit more high tech and looked pretty intimidating. The helmet itself is very angular and honestly, it reminds me a bit of the Annihilator’s helmet, which just ties it even closer to the Iron Grenadiers. There’s a canister on the front of the helmet. When I had him as a Viper, I used it as a gas mask, but as a paratrooper, it makes sense for the Iron Anvil to have a rebreather of some sort built into his helmet. The helmet itself is nicely designed and it looks like it could take a few hits and still protect the wearer. The angular design also works well for a paratrooper since it would decrease drag and let him fall faster. The Iron Anvil benefits from the solid design work Hasbro did back in 1994, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier that this figure exists because it allowed other people to get a better look at the 1994 Viper and appreciate its design without the baggage of a bad color scheme.
I’ll freely admit, the 1994 Viper’s purple and orange look was less than ideal, but it wasn’t god awful. However, repainting the mold in Iron Grenadier colors really makes this figure shine. The bulk of the figure is done in black, which adds to the sleekness of the overall look. The boots and gloves are a dark gray that works well with the black. Red is used primarily for his trim, including the straps on his legs and arms, the pouches on his chest and his pointy shoulder pads. Up on the helmet, there’s even more red used to bring out the details on the helmet and on the rebreather. Gold is used sparingly, but it works well on the figure. There’s gold on his chest tech panel and insignia as well as the zipper. The gold is also used on the patch on the front of his right leg. Up on the helmet, gold is used for the visor and that’s a great call. The gold reminds me of the amber visors that skydivers use to cut down glare when they’re in the sky. While it may have just been used to bring out the visor and make it pop, it makes real world sense and it’s a great call by the GIJCC. The Iron Anvil gets the Iron Grenadier logo on his left leg. It’s done in a slightly darker red than the rest of the figure uses and it does look sharp
there, though I’ve never quite understood all the Joe figures that have put logos on their legs. I get it from an action figure design standpoint, but it’s kind of hard to justify from a character standpoint. I’ve always been a firm believer that there’s no such thing as a bad mold, just a bad paint scheme. While some figures, like Battle Corps Muskrat do test that belief (and I do like that mold, I’m just not sure it fits with the G.I. Joe line), the Battle Corps Viper is another figure that proves that maxim. Underneath all that orange and purple, there is a really great figure and the GIJCC’s Iron Grenadier-based paint scheme really brings it out.
The Iron Anvils are a bit of a tough call for me on accessories. On the one hand, I do like the gear he came with, but on the other, it just seems a little unimpressive. Starting off with his backpack, the GIJCC improvised a parachute pack using a Mylar Joe parachute and the Jinx backpack of all things. I have to admire the GIJCC’s ingenuity when it comes to the parachute pack, but at the same time, I’m just not wild about it. The parachute has the Iron Grenadiers logo printed on it and the red Mylar looks sharp, but I’ve never really liked working parachutes and considering there’s no way to tuck this parachute away while the figure’s wearing its backpack, my opinion on Joe parachutes really hasn’t changed. The Iron Anvil’s primary weapon is the same submachine gun that came with the Annihilators back in the day. It’s a decent piece, even though it doesn’t really look that natural in anyone’s hands. Plus, I kind of like the idea of the Iron Anvils and Annihilators sharing similar gear since they’re both part of the Iron Grenadiers Air Corps. Finally, like the 1994 Viper, the Iron Anvil also gets the lightning bolt knife that was on the Viper’s weapon tree. I know it was first released with the Hydro-Viper and I definitely had a lot of 90s Joes that came with that particular knife, but it really does look at home in the Iron Anvil’s hands. I didn’t give a lot of non-ninja characters melee weapons, but for some reason, the lightning bolt knife in the Viper’s hand just really spoke to my kid brain and it still does with this figure. His weapons are both legitimately decent pieces, but it just feels like something’s missing. I like the Annihilator gun because it works for a shock trooper, but I think I would have liked to see a little heavier firepower included as well. I think the lack of
a decent backpack also hurts the figure and leaves him feeling a little incomplete. I don’t consider either problem a dealbreaker because I personally can’t come up with a better weapons load or an alternate backpack that would look like a parachute pack, but at the same time, the little problems do nag at me just a little bit.
I remember taking a bit of crap from my older brother for my love of the 1994 Viper. He thought it looked really bad and couldn’t understand why I thought it was so cool. I’ll admit, on Battle Corps Muskrat, he was right, but the Iron Anvil shows that my opinion of the Battle Corps Viper back when I was nine was right on. This is a well-designed figure that was unfortunately saddled with a really subpar color scheme when it was first released. The GIJCC did a great job redeeming this mold and I think that’s part of what drew me to those early Joe Con sets. The GIJCC did a great job at finding hidden gems from towards the end of the line and repainting them in a way that made them good figures. They started that tradition with the Swamp Viper (who used to be the yellow and pink Monster Viper—who I also had as a kid and thought was super cool) and continued here with the Iron Anvil. Don’t get me wrong, I love what the GIJCC is doing with their modern-style con sets, but parts of me miss wondering every year what kind of funky-looking vintage figure their paint team manages to turn into something awesome. The Iron Anvil is definitely one of the best army builders the GIJCC ever came up with and it’s a great looking figure that works well not just within the confines of the M.A.R.S. Invades con set, but looks great with other vintage Iron Grenadiers as well.