Night Creeper (25th Anniversary)
Ninjas have always been a rather controversial element in Joe history. Personally, I have no problems with them. Storm Shadow was established as a ninja from day one and shifting Snake Eyes over to the ninja category makes sense from a certain standpoint. However, during the 90s, the ninja ranks of both the Joe and Cobra teams expanded a lot. That wouldn’t have been so bad had they not also been given spring-loaded action features. Despite those problems, there was still one awesome ninja that dodged the Ninja Force curse because he was released the year before Hasbro started adding in action features to their figures: the 1990 Night Creeper. The Night Creeper was a great figure that also introduced a new element to the Joe and Cobra conflict that I loved—the purely mercenary Night Creeper ninja clan. While they usually work for Cobra, I love that the Night Creeper clan has remained an independent force after all these years. These guys only work for Cobra as long as they’re paid, and the second the money isn’t good enough they are gone. Yes, Zartan started out that way, but even he eventually became part of Cobra High Command and if you grew up more on the cartoon than the comic like I did, you never thought of Zartan as anything but one of Cobra Commander’s lackeys. The Night Creepers stood alone as independent ninja contractors in the Joe universe and that was a nice new wrinkle that I enjoyed incorporating into my adventures. The 1990 figure was great, and despite a few questionable parts choices, the 25th Anniversary Night Creeper from the Defense of Cobra Island set is just as good.
The hallmark of the Night Creeper look has always been blending high tech elements with the classic ninja aesthetic. The modern Night Creeper has that look here as well. Night Creeper pulls his parts from some surprising places and unfortunately they don’t necessarily all work well. The torso is from the 25th Anniversary Snake Eyes while the arms come from the 25th Anniversary Tiger Force Flint. The torso is decent and the flaws of the original 25th Anniversary Snake Eyes are hidden well by his removable chest armor. However, using the 25th Anniversary Tiger Force Flint arms creates a couple of problems. First of all, the Flint arms are just an odd choice since Flint is wearing short sleeves yet they’ve been repurposed here as someone wearing two-tone sleeves. It’s not really that effective at pulling the original figure’s look off. What’s really mindboggling is that the Rise of Cobra Wal-Mart exclusive version used 25th Anniversary Snake Eyes’ arms instead and it worked a lot better. The other problem comes from the mold’s hands. Flint’s hands were designed to hold his shotgun in a two-handed position like he was doing on his original card art. However, that renders them pretty much useless for holding anything else. Though his reused parts are a little hit or miss, Night Creeper’s new pieces are very successful. The new legs have the traditional Night Creeper wraps and I love the added detail of the spiked metal soles on his boots. I’d imagine a kick from a Night Creeper would be pretty painful because of those spikes, but they’re there primarily to help them climb building surfaces by giving them some additional traction. That’s a detail that wasn’t included on the original figure but in taking the infiltration specialty just a little further, you get a nice set of new feet that are both useful for stealthy work but can be used to inflict more pain in combat. I like Night Creeper’s new head, but at the same time, I’m a little confused by it. The head itself is a silver helmet with narrow goggles and a purple wrap around his lower face. That’s all classic Night Creeper. What confuses me is why they made the hood a separate piece. I think the head sculpt would be a little more successful if it were all one molded piece. It reminds me of the decision to make the 25th Anniversary Viper’s goggles removable. Yeah, they could do it, but that doesn’t mean they should. Those goggles were terrible and while the hood isn’t as bad, I think the head looks a little off because of the removable hood. His removable chest armor rounds out the Night Creeper look. I always thought the three plates of armor on the Night Creeper’s chest looked pretty cool back in the day and they were translated very well into the modern aesthetic.
While I’m not sure how successful the figure is on the merits of its design, the color scheme really helps save the Night Creeper from being an awful figure. Night Creeper’s color scheme has always been a little weird, but that’s part of why I love it. I don’t know why a ninja would be wearing two different shades of purple and gray, but somehow it works. It feels kind of stealthy, but at the same time, it’s not the same old boring black-on-black ninja look we’ve seen a lot of times. The camouflage on his pants is well applied and calls back to the original figure very well. The shades of purple are good and a little toned down from the 1990 release. Hasbro may not have put the finishing touches on the neonizer back in 1990, but the Night Creeper’s lighter purple was a bit closer to fuchsia than purple and that’s a pretty bright color for a ninja to be rocking. Here, however, the purples are bit deeper and while there’s still one purple that’s a couple shades brighter, it’s not nearly as bright as the 1990 Night Creeper was. The silver on his chest armor is a nice muted color that looks like metal but doesn’t gleam. I have always wondered why the Night Creeper wasn’t wearing darker chest armor. Even if it’s not polished, bare metal still has a glint to it. I’d think that they’d want to avoid the possibility of some light somewhere catching their armor (or helmet) and giving them away, but that’s just me. It still works well and I like how well the colors, across the board, work for this figure.
As a member of the class of 1990, the Night Creeper had some very cool, unique accessories and the Defense of Cobra Island set does a very good job of recreating them. To me, the Night Creeper was always defined by his great big crossbow. Hasbro did not skimp on that piece and that’s a very good thing. I think without it, the Night Creeper would have been a bit lacking in the accessory department, but instead, we get a great homage with his most recognizable weapon. The crossbow is quite large and is equipped with a sight and what I think is something like an auto-reloader. I don’t know if that’s a real world thing, but it’s a decent enough explanation as to why there are additional crossbow bolts mounted underneath the main body of the crossbow. They even went to the trouble of painting the additional bolts and that’s not something that happened with accessories a lot. The detailing on this new version is amazing compared to the classic Night Creeper’s crossbow. Night Creeper also gets his crazy wavy sword. Until watching an episode of Forged in Fire, I thought this was something Hasbro did in the 90s just to make it so we got a different looking sword, but this is actually a real- world weapon called a kris, so kudos to Hasbro for pulling a new sword design from reality. The sword looks just like it did back in 1990 and it works well for him. Backpacks were kind of unusual in the 25th Anniversary line, but Night Creeper also gets one. It may be shared with the 25th Anniversary Paine Brothers Snake Eyes, but it’s a dead ringer for the original Night Creeper’s backpack. The sword fits in the clips okay but I have noticed that it seems to deform the plastic of the backpack a little. There are white stress marks on the top clip and that’s a little disconcerting. This backpack was designed for a straight-bladed sword so it makes sense that the curvy sword might not fit as well as it should, but I wish they could have tweaked the mold just a little bit somehow to make it hold it without risking damage to the backpack. The backpack itself also has a lot of great details molded into it. There are climbing claws and a cloth roll of some sort at the top, grenades and blowgun darts attached on the outside of the main body and a climbing rope held to the bottom. The Night Creeper is clearly ready for whatever contingency may come up during the course of his mission. His gear is all nicely oriented towards the idea of a high-tech ninja assassin and industrial saboteur. On his own, the Night Creeper is a pretty good figure, but when you add in his gear, it really helps him shine.
While some may view the original Night Creeper as part of the beginning of the ninja- overload that led to the downfall of the original Joe line, I don’t see him that way. If the Ninja Force figures had just not been saddled with action features, I think they would have all been great figures and given the respect they deserve. Looking back on guys like Dojo now, I can’t fault the actual figure design, but the built in action feature really hurt him. The modern Night Creeper looks great and is a very accurate update of the original figure. However, being so hidebound to the original design does create some problems. The arms didn’t have to be made from the Flint arms but since they wanted to replicate the original two-tone look, they went with them since there weren’t a lot of arms with short sleeves and gloves aside from Flint’s. That’s a bit of a problem when they’re designed to work best with a shotgun and your figure doesn’t carry one. It’s a great addition to the line, but since he has the arm issue, that really does hurt him. It’s not as bad as having the dreaded “Duke arms”, but those Flint arms weren’t that great either. I still wish Hasbro had given us a reason for releasing two versions of Night Creeper within months of each other and the one not colored like the classic used much better parts. The Night Creeper is a classic figure and the update is great, but it’s still very much an artifact of the times, and those little issues really do keep it from being the great figure that it had the potential to be.