Hydro-Viper (1988)

Looking back, I sure am disappointed to not have gotten in at the ground floor with the 1988 series. My childhood Joe collection stopped in the midst of the 1987 series. I like the ’87 releases, but the Cobras were…odd. With several cool new Joes as well as Cobra army builders, the followup was a fine year. I recall spotting the new Storm Shadow at a friend’s house (his little brother was a few years younger than us) and just had to check out the figure. I wouldn’t find out about the Hydro-Viper until years later, and just seeing the card art drew me in. The design is certainly unique for a Cobra underwater trooper.

Hydro-Viper (1988)

While the Eel was a colorful code name, the Hydro-Viper’s aquatic abilities are more literal. According to the file card, the troops are surgically altered to be more effective in their environment. The Strato-Viper corps were I believe the first troops to be subjected to such modification. As the series went on, this sort of “upgrades” of troopers would occur again and again. By the Valor vs. Venom years, Cobra was seemingly augmenting its entire army. The most obvious result of changes on the figure are its webbed hands–well, one is posed with an open palm, anyway. It gets the point across, but we lose a gripping hand in the process.

I know that a lot of collectors won’t care for the color scheme. I don’t mind it too much, but I think a more naturalistic color for the wetsuit may have helped bring out the details in the mold. As it stands, the pruple overloads the eye. The card art depicted the vest in black, and that extra paint app in itself may have made the figure more palatable. If you have a copy of the 1988 pack-in catalog handy, you can see a pre-production version with a black vest. Speaking of pre-prod–If you want to check out some details of the sculpt from the original turnarounds, check out this article from Tim Finn’s A Real American book blog. While you’re there, check out the whole thing–it’s fantastic!

Finally, if animal companions are your thing, the devil ray is certainly a unique pal. I don’t know what use they would have–the file card is strangely silent on them; maybe Cobra has trained them to be attack rays.

Hydro-Viper (1988) Hydro-Viper (1988) Hydro-Viper (1988)


  • Only thing I need to complete this guy is his knife.

  • Red and purple are too tacky and yes, don’t let the sculpt shine The Funskool one is darker purple and looks a bit better, though is packed with a bright red helmet. But it’s a real shame this figure never got a reissue in the USA. the collector’s club had a Cobra divers set on the drawing boards but never followed through. The Hydro-Viper mold is probably long destroyed now.

  • I felt Hydro-Viper was one of the weaker enemy divers. 1985 Eel & Undertow had better colors and designs than it. The bright purple & red were not the best colors for a diver but were better than the neon Eels of the ’90s. They were more conventional whereas Hydro Viper was getting a little out there with the monster mask helmet, webbed hand, and monster fins. The aesthetics were a little ways off from the realm of what would be considered GI Joe. The manta ray was cool though, giving a diver a pet. I didn’t like the webbed hand taking away a function item-holding hand. The thunderbolt dagger was cool-looking, however. Most later enemy divers came with cool accessories (a Destro-issued barracuda & a sea sled, a missile-firing robot shark), something which began with Hydro-Viper in this category. I know a lot of people like dumping on Toxo-Viper but I felt Hydro-Viper was the weakest of the 1988 carded army builders.

  • The thing I find most interesting about the brand was that if one year was too ‘out-there’, the following year would be more in tune with the brands military heritage. I frequently find myself arguing with purists who scream until they are blue in the face that “Everything after 1985 was terrible”. I knew one guy who argued that the brand only ran from 1985-87 [what would he know]. There were even good figures in 1994.
    This figure, I have nothing against. Except the sculpting on the breathing gizmo. Looks like he has a circular mouth

  • Dreadnok: Spirit

    Given the strangeness of the figure and the timeframe, maybe it was one of those figures that was originally planned to be a part of Cobra-La.

  • 1988 Hydro-Viper looks like an action figure right out of Jules Verne’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.”

  • I always thought the dialogue in the 1988 movie, Big, referred to this figure – “He takes 10,000 G. I. Joes, slaps some gills on them, webs their feet, and packages them in seaweed”

    Probably just coincidence.

    Unrelated to this figure, but I think early on in that film there’s a GI Joe Devilfish on the floor of the bedroom when the main character wakes up as Tom Hanks.

    • There’s a nightraven in the film too in the apartment at one point. Come to think of it. There is a lot of product placement in that movie

  • I loved this figure. He had a grand time open hand slapping the Joes.

  • I don’t mind this figure. The black vest would have been a nice upgrade. Hasbro got the mold back from Funskool in 2003/2004. At least the arm was run as part of a mold test with Muskrat. Don’t know why we never saw the figure again.

    But, based on how accessories were pretty much dropped from the retail ARAH Joes, it’s possible that Hasbro determined that the figure sans gear would be a dud. But, I don’t think Hasbro cared enough to make that choice by that time.

  • I loved how as the line kept going, things were added, upgraded. Story lines created within the entire toy system.

    In this case, this is sort of just a Cobra Eel; with more advancements and enhancements making the individual Viper (who is a nasty individual joining up with Cobra for some money and the opportunities to be extra, extra nasty) a little more of a walking weapon. Or in this case a swimming weapon.

    Red is the slower color under the sea and in that environment takes on a different camo.
    I rather like this.

    These Hydro Vipers would be pretty terrifying if they were popping up around vessels at sea or climbing onto oil rigs or shore docks.

    For me, though, they were almost too intense. An ordinary Eel to me didn’t seem to out of place on a Moray, for instance. The Hydro Viper felt so specialized that it was a fish out of water in any setting than in the water.

  • yeah I really loved this guy. I always thought the line was really hitting its stride in the late 80s

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