Rock-Viper (1990)

The Rock Viper’s repaint into Python Patrol has already been covered here, but the original figure still holds some interest thanks to a sensible color scheme, a functioning climbing backpack, and a bit of facial hair.

I’m disappointed that these more specialized Cobra troops were released after I had finished my childhood collecting. I’m sure I would have picked this figure up and dangled it from many an outcropping of rock, or a staircase when playing inside. Had they been released a few years earlier, these guys would have been giving my Alpine figure fits hanging from the living room stairs. The working backpack doesn’t have a fancy automatic climbing feature, but the ability to string a climbing rope through it and hand wind it is still a lot of fun. I don’t care how old you are, toys with grappling hooks are awesome.

Most vintage Rock Vipers I’ve run across have a broken crotch. Some GI Joe figures over the years were simply prone to breakage, due to either a slightly thinner build in that area, or even the quality of the figures’ plastic. Broken bits aside, this is one insanely detailed Cobra trooper, and far superior to the modern re-imagining. At least the original has its own unique helmet, and though not removable, it won’t fall off at the slightest movement.

One sort-of sore spot of the Rock Viper is its rifle. While not as bad as the SAW Viper’s weapon, this thing is almost too big to be effective in display. The mold was released again and again in the 90s, and also in black as part of the Cobra Infantry Forces pack. I must have a few couple dozen of them floating around my miscellaneous weapons bins. I probably would like it more if it hadn’t been so ever-present. It’s a cumbersome rifle, and could have been really great if it were just smaller. It does have a redeeming quality in its ability to plug into the backpack. That’s a handy feature for a guy who probably needs two hands free most of the time.

Finally, there’s the mystery of the facial hair. For a troop builder to have such a distinctive feature is odd, but I can dig it. After all, if Cobra can be thought of as the antithesis of GI Joe, then it stands to reason that the bad guys might require its membership to grow facial hair. Even though the 80s Joes have their fair share of cookie dusters, this one is decidedly evil looking. Now that I’m thinking about it, this figure reminds me of another mustachioed evil-doer who frequented toy mountainsides in the 80s. Could the Rock Viper have been inspired by the Sky Commanders series’ own Raider Rath?



  • Then there’s also the funny aspect of the head being used for the UK release of a figure from the following year: the Crimson Guard Immortal.

  • ” I don’t care how old you are, toys with grappling hooks are awesome.”

    Well said.

  • Rob, I will definitely attest to the fact that the climbing backpack was an awesome play feature. I used the Rock-Viper whenever I could just because that thing was so fun to use. The Rock-Viper was such a great figure and a great design. From head to toe, there’s a lot of great detailing and I enjoy the concept of an entire group of Cobra specialists having mustaches. Maybe Cobra Commander has the Rock-Vipers celebrate Movember all year round.

  • If this guy had been released alongside Alpine, I would have likely picked him up as well. But he showed up just as my interest in Joes was dying out. I could never get over that cumbersome gun. I hated it with a passion, but Hasbro kept reissuing it anyway.

  • Incidentally, Rocky here does resemble Raider Rath a bit. Maybe if the figure had been released shortly after the Hasbro/Kenner union where Kenner seemed to end up calling the shots? All I know is that Rocky’s facial hair always threw me off. Was he supposed to be an specific character due to his mustache or was this one of the requirements for making the grade at Rock Viper Graduate School? The world might never know.

  • Back in 2006, i picked up a large bag of loose ARAH figures from the local swap meet. Most of the figures in it were the “DIC regualrs” [including this guy] I remeber scouring priceguids and websites only to discover they werent worth much but since then most [if not all] of the 89-90 figures have jumped in value [except for poor old DeeJay]

    Ambush Subzero and this guy are easily my favorites. A pity their cartoon adventures were so lackluster.

    Does anyone know what sort of rifle that is?

  • Ahh the vintage Rock Viper….a classic. The rifle is ridiculous, but one ca always discard it, yes? Perhaps for funny joke, I paint over Rock Viper’s ‘stach and paint one on ’83 Zap. Hilarious!

  • I too felt they were a natural foil for Alpine, though unfortunately I could never find Alpine at the stores and the rare times I did, my parents weren’t buying (from my experience, the rarest figures from 1985 were: Snake Eyes, Snow Serpent, Alpine). And yes, grappling hooks (but only if they have lines) are awesome.

    Yeah, the more you look at it, the more detail you see in the figure. While the rifle was cool, it was oddly out of place for mountaineering figures. There’s a lot of weight on that gun. It also detracted a little from S.A.W. Viper by making his gun not so large by comparison (that weapon was his defining feature, what he specialized in). It’s a nice weapon, but it seems better suited for another figure. I still liked the Rock Viper as my favorite 1990 Viper. I did wish he came out earlier. Alpine seemed so alone up on those mountains (even though I never had him, it just seemed like there should’ve been a Viper for that speciality since 1985).

    And yes, I thought the moustache was as mandatory as the uniform for Rock Vipers. Who knows, maybe some of the masked Vipers were required to have vandyke beards under the masks?

  • Less bothered by the mustache and more by the fragile crotch. I think fans got so army builder obsessed with generic appearance. Fans accept that Toxo-Viper have strange noses (which admittedly is covered by the helmet), and Tele-Vipers are weasely-faced, what you can see of it.

  • I bought my only ’90 Rock Viper at a Kay Bee store in 1991 in a mix of a buy-some-get-some free mix deal.

    I didn’t notice it at the store, but the crotch was already broken when I opened it up brand new.

    I totally dig this figure, I would have loved to build up a squad of these.

    That rifle is awesome, but definitely too big! The pistol is kind of cool, it stands out to me as one of those sidearm type weapons with the rear stock that helps ARAH figures hold their pistols a little straighter-looking!

    Hit & Run usually tangled with this guy here.

  • Ultra cool backpack!

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