Joe Toys That Could Have Been: MASS Device Playsets
By Past Nastification
We’ve looked at potential vehicles and action figures in Sunbow’s The MASS Device miniseries. Now let’s finish the series by looking at potential playsets.
Cobra Castle: If you’re old enough to remember the wonderful Marx Toys Navarone playset, just scale it up in your mind. The Terror Drome is a great playset. However, it was designed to have an industrial modular feel, like a remote military installation. It’s not the heart of a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world. The Sunbow Cobra Castle gives Cobra Commander a place to rightfully hang his battle helmet.
Cobra Throne: In the 30+ years of Cobra Commander leading Cobra, he has never had a worthy thrown. Hasbro has slopped out two half-hearted attempts. One was a repainted Jedi chair thrown in with the Imperial Procession set. The other was part of the Conquest of Cobra Mountain playset, another Star Wars toy forced into service as a GI Joe toy. Sunbow showed us what Cobra Commander really deserves to sit in. A great big snake.
Big Screen Command Center: The ’83 GI Joe headquarters command center is a great playset. But it lacked the huge oversized computer screens that would make NASA Mission Control jealous. This would be an interesting playset to make today. Hasbro could actually come up with real working screens that would have hundreds of images to choose from, or it could go the low-tech route with plastic insets to slide into slots. Cost would be the driving factor, but either way it would be a nice display piece.
Arena of Sport: Making a full circle would be impractical, but making a cutaway semi-circle would work well as long as the viewing box for Cobra Commander and Destro is included. The seats could be actual rows of bench-style seats for figures, or just a cardboard inset with painted spectators. Playmobil made a gladiator arena several years ago that is very close in feel to the Arena of Sport. If only Playmobil figures were just a little taller.
Cobra Mine: Many of the playsets I’ve already discussed are similar to ones that Hasbro has made in that they represent man-made structures. The radioactive crystal mine would be different in that it has a much more organic feel. Although a mine would have been carved from the ground by men, instead of having been constructed by them, the look would be more random and fluid. Not unlike a cave. Although Kenner frequently made playsets like this in the 70’s and 80’s (Tattooine sand dunes, Hoth, and Dagobah), Hasbro pretty much stuck with non-organic playsets for GI Joe. This is an overdue departure. The one exception is the rocky display stand that came with the ’97 Stars & Stripes Forever set. Poorly sculpted, it looked like an undercooked mini loaf of lumpy banana bread. The mine would require several working features to be done right: a crystal bay with light-up or glow-in-the-dark “crystals”, a drop-down radiation shield, and an entrance. Hasbro might resist making an action figure playset with glowing pink crystals for a “boys’ toy”, so throw in some of the SNAKES disguised with rocky backs to balance out the appeal. And if girls want the playset, good! Scarlett would approve. This would be a cutaway set and could easily have another playset on the other side or a storage compartment.
Heavy Water Pool/Volcano: Another organic playset, Hasbro could cheat and make it a two-in-one, funnel shaped playset. Display it with the narrow portion on the bottom and it looks like the heavy water pool. But flip it upside down and turn it around and it looks like a volcano thanks to clever paint applications. Maybe include a tray to fill with water to place at the bottom when in HWP mode and some glowing red lava rings to use when in volcano mode…
Cobra Dungeon: The Terror Drome had a jail cell for captives, but Cobra needs to up its game with a medieval dungeon. It would have to come with a few removable escape bricks, wall mounted chains, and some hungry rats molded into the floor piece.
Cobra Slave Pit/Snow: One more organic playset. Technically, the slave pit was probably dug out by the slaves themselves, but the feel would be very loose and craggy. This could be another flip-over playset: painted dark grey on one side for the slave pit and white on the other side to use as a snow playset.
City: Collectors and customizers do good jobs of pulling from different toy lines to make ground level cities for display. Fischer-Price this, Ninja Turtles that, with a bit of a Batcave and a dusting of Playmobil and you’ve got a solid downtown. Update it with the great pieces made by/for Marvel movies, McFarlane Toys, Chap Mei, and the Animal Planet toys and just about any gaps can be filled. Maybe this is asking too much from Hasbro, as once you start down the city world you’re drifting towards Polly Pocket land (to be fair, Polly Pocket has provided parts to some really decent dioramas customizers have made). So I’d give Hasbro my blessing to go the cheap route and make some simple vacuum form building fronts to sit on top of a cardstock “street”. It’s a start.
Thanks for imagining with me as I’ve gone through The MASS device and wrung it dry for dream vehicles, action figures, and playsets. I’ve appreciated your comments and your thoughts. Sunbow did an amazing job of world building and I’d like to see it get translated even more into toys.