Viper (1986)

Can you believe it’s taken me this long to get around to the icon of 80s Cobra troop building? I must apologize; then again, I’m not exactly getting bombarded with requests for certain figures. I suppose I should get a pass, since I’ve covered the mold in several of its later incarnations.

I wasn’t a big fan of the Viper figure as a kid.  Blasphemy, I know, but there it is. My best friend at the time had practically the entire range of figures that year well before me, and my first experience playing with one was at a visit to his house. Nothing about the figure really sparked my interest, at least not enough to run out immediately to get one. As a kid, if I was interested in a figure, I was tenacious about picking it up ASAP. The previous year, for example, the Eels, Snow Serpent, Shipwreck, Barbecue and the Crimson Twins were in my hand within days of seeing them. The Viper didn’t set off my “must have” sense. I remember thinking that the figure looked too pudgy and generally not sinister enough. Maybe the head was just too big. Regardless, like many other adult collectors, I have been geeking out over this mold for years hence.

The Viper doesn’t have that same nameless minion of an emerging terrorist group look to his uniform. Where the original blueshirts wore…well, just blue shirts, the Viper is more elaborately equipped, an indication that Cobra had been amassing massive amounts of capital to arm and outfit its troops. The Viper was also the beginning of the name designation that would come to dominate the organization in years to come. Within a few years, what started with the plain vanilla Viper turned into a veritable tide of specialties.


  • It’s funny–of all the army builders I have, including modern uses of this mold, I have yet to actually own a V1 Viper.

  • I kinda feel like the Vipers were overshadowed by the cool looking Battle Android Troopers as far as building up Cobra’s ranks went at that time. This blue, red, and black version with the chrome faceplate is easily my all-time favorite Viper. I never had the original, but thank God I had the Sonic Fighters version. I really enjoyed that one.

  • I see the Vipers as the shock trooper equivelant of the cobra infantry forces. The cobra infantry troops have to work their way up from being a blue shirt to a viper

  • I never owned an ’86 Viper as a kid either. My parent’s couldn’t spring for everything and they didn’t do allowances, so any new Joes took precedence over Cobras since I wasn’t in a hurry to collect the ARAH equivalent of Red Shirts or Stormtroopers.

    I did like the way these guys harkened back to Cobra Commander’s mirror-mug look. You knew whose side they were on right away. The combination of red and blue was also classic Cobra by then and the rolled up sleeves made these guys look badass.

    I do believe that the name designation has gone over into the ridiculous since this guy was first released. All part of the popular snake motif, I know, but it’s still overkill.

  • Iconic Cobra trooper. Much more then the ’82/’83 soldier.

  • I was surprised to learn that the name every new Cobra trooper “_____-Viper” thing was Larry Hama’s idea. I think he had a hard time coming up with name for nameless Cobra troopers.

    I liked Viper more then than now. I think the visor was the wrong direction to go. I see it as cheapening Cobra Commander’s original look and dehumanizing the Cobra force too much. There’s also a weird reversal, original Cobra Commander didn’t bare any skin and his troopers showed part of their faces. In 1986, Cobra’s new leader Serpentor didn’t conceal his face, while the new infantry totally did.

  • As a kid, it actually bugged me that the Viper did the Commander’s visor look. But I still liked the figure; he was more decked out and ready for action than the blueshirts (who usually sat in the HISS or at base). The multiple repaints actually freshened up the Viper for me, and I’m fond of the sculpt now. This (or at least the 2006 version) is a must-have in any collection.

  • Truly a classic. The colors, the proportions of the colors, the helmet… all classic. IIRC, Vipers became one of the harder to find figures from 1986 (though not to the rarity some 1984/85 figures had). I like to believe the classic Cobra Trooper & Viper co-exist, that the Viper only replaced some Cobra Troopers when Cobra got enough revenue to fully equip their infantry. Like, the generic Cobras fill more of the generalist positions in the military or non-specific support roles and as new Vipers were introduced, those in the Cobra uniform who were more specialists changed into those (like Techno-Vipers).

    And minor note- the Tele-Viper preceded the Viper by a year. They were the first Viper though 1985 had an array of serpentine creatures, not all of the reptilian sort (eels, snow serpents, lampreys, vipers). Seems they settled on Viper. Also note the classic “The Viper is Coming” episode preceded the 1986 Viper as well (love that episode).

  • Cobra Vipers are Cobra soldiers to me, they are simply better armed with, as the file card indicates, wrap-around armor and a helmet with built in RTO gear.

    I like the slightly pudgy look, as this gear is combat gear.

    1986 figures overall seem to have larger heads compared to other years, though.

    Somebody could make money off me if they had a quality custom head on the market with a removable helmet and the face would have that trooper bandanna mask underneath. (comes with removable goggles, of course!)

    1986 was really all about Serpentor and Cobra becoming it’s own little nation when you think about it. The Cobra Emperor showed that he cared about his troops from the moment he was created (though, more for morale boosting, than anything), and I don’t think it is coincidence that the 1986 Viper is more heavily armed with better gear.
    The entire 1986 line up was really a jump in technology, too. The highest, fastest flying NIght Raven, the battle-chariot like STUN, and the castle/ fortress Terrordrome.

  • @Scott
    I confess that i’m hardly Serpentors biggest fan. Personally i think he is the worst leader cobra had.
    But i agree with your comment about coming into their own in’86. They had gone from being the “loosers” someones little brother always had to use to getting a wider vairty of troops, better vehicles and and even a base of their own.

  • 1986 is a soft reboot of GI JOE.

    Most of the Cobras were new takes on previous characters. Mindbender is Destro made even more eccentric. Serpentor is Cobra Commander taken up to a comic book super-villain level. Zartan’s siblings split his power in two, camouflage and disguise. Monkeywrench is a biker Firefly. Vipers and BATS are the new officers and troopers.

    The Joe ones are obvious, with Mainframe and Dial-Tone splitting Breaker’s duties. Low-Light is the closest thing to a new character (he originally was designed as Navy SEAL), but he covers Snake-Eyes’ “sneaking around in the dark” turf a little. Hawk takes the leadership role back. Slaughter becomes the new Duke.

    It all seems lazy. But then you see how the 1987 additions were received, mostly new specialists and character concepts were disliked by some fans…the well regarded ones are familiar or realistic concepts. Falcon, Tunnel Rat, Law, are the ones that are popular. It’s no wonder Hasbro kept making “replacement” characters.

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