Raptor (1987)

1987–the year  presented more whacked out Cobra characters per capita than any previous year. While the 3 3/4″ Joe line started out mostly as a military line, the weird Cobra characters started coming in 1983 and got progressively weirder through the next few years. Cases in point: Destro, Zartan, Tomax/Xamot and Serpentor. I can handle an arms dealer with a metal mask and shirt open to his belly button. I can handle a shape-changing mercenary. I can handle identical twin circus acrobats who can feel one another’s pain and are heads of a corporation that fronts for Cobra. I can even handle an artificially created being cloned from the DNA of famous leaders. But I draw the line at shirtless, falcon helmet wearing bird wranglers. It’s just so…implausible.

Raptor, the Cobra Falconer, was a yuppie tax consultant who took his hobby of falconry a little too far, if you couldn’t tell from looking. Maybe there was a contest among the Hasbro designers to see how many bird motifs they could cram into the figure: “Bird helmet–check; wings–check; feathery gloves and boots–check; talons on boots–check; big-ass bird belt buckle–check; feathery shoulder thingies–check; bird medallion–check. Oh, one more thing, let’s give him a beak nose! Perfection achieved!”

There is an element of inherent silliness to this whole GI Joe thing, and it’s refreshing to dig out the goofballs and have fun from time to time. Even the file card managed to do it: “Raptor doesn’t have any delusions about what he is even if he dresses up in that bird suit of his and spends most of his time in a giant bird cage. Those are means to an end, and the bottom line for Raptor is his non-taxable profit margin.”


  • Raptor and taxes: I think someone was clearly going for satire here. Larry Hama did his best to include him in the comic, even to the point of involving Raptor in Cobra Commander’s death. But this guy just didn’t work out. Maybe if he had been handled more like the Penguin or a similar villain with a bird motif. I give Hasbro props for the figure’s detailing, though.

    • I have a soft spot for all of the ’87 Cobras, warts and all. Gotta love the year that gave us boxing gloves, a hypno-shield and a crocodile. ’87 also had two of the coolest Cobra drivers–WORMS and Ice Viper.

  • They should’ve played up as a tracker, the comics basic pointed to his falcons tracking GI JOE. Maybe even made him another stereotypical Native American character. But Hama went too satirical, and because he didn’t take take the guy remotely seriously, fans didn’t either.

    The figure suffered a military toy faux pas, as did Croc Master, Big Boa and Crystal Ball…no gun. You can make a total weirdo and give him a cool weapon…at least they’ll have that going for them. Pets and boxing gloves don’t cut it in a battle with tanks, missiles and machine guns.

    • Good points. Maybe he could be re-envisioned in the modern line.

    • He would have been great if they had an Easter Island story, with an angle of cliched natives and this “bird man” coming in and acting like their Bird Man of the island religion, getting them to do things for Cobra (they had a bird man cult). He could have been used seriously in such a context. It could also set up a greater parable by paralleling history, as in Cortez/Quetzalcoatl.

      Well, at least he made a cool boss of stage 1-2 in the NES game.

  • You want to know something funny? As much as people loathe this figure (and yet love his serpentine animal costumed counterpart, Serpentor)… he didn’t seem to be a shelfwarmer. From what I remember, he seemed about average in abundance. Crystal Ball was the shelfwarmer (but he paled in comparison to the legions of Dee-Jays that seized the shelves for cloven-hooved, moon-booted doofuses (would the plural be doofi?) everywhere), the Pogo & Buzz Boar were somewhat shelfwarmers too, Cobra-La seemed slow to sell too, but the crazy bird man seemed fine. Maybe it was the fabric winged backpack. Maybe he attracted a lot of sales from outside GI Joe fans because he was so eye-catching. Maybe he was the lesser evil among hypnotists, snake-tailed despots, and the like. Or maybe despite the facade many put up, many of those had a soft spot for an obvious goofball like Raptor. Or maybe people wanted an evil Cobra with a mean bird to be the foil for the cartoony sailor Shipwreck and his parrot Polly. Who knows.

  • I’ve always had a soft spot for Raptor. I remember getting him for an early birthday (along with Hawk) and I really like his design. Then again, I was always partial to the more super-hero-y, less militaristic figures, since my point of entry was the cartoon. My biggest issue with this figure was that you could never quite position his arms with the wings such that he appeared to realistically be flying.

  • As a kid, I found this character to be terribly confusing.

    He’s a pragmatic accountant who dresses up in a bird costume for perfectly obvious reasons, which are…what? To fit in with the other weirdos in Cobra while embezzling from their accounts? He’s a master of falconry, which he uses to…what? Annoy the team of military special forces soldiers who are all armed with long-range rifles and high-powered scopes? Crocmaster and Big Boa are silly, too, but they make sense–you can imagine a guy siccing crocodiles on the Joe team members, or beating the snot out of them. What is the shirtless unarmed guy with the falcon going to do, exactly?

    I also really wanted the file card to make it clear whether he could use those silly wings to fly or glide or something, which it doesn’t (and believe me, when you’re ten years old, that’s the most important question you’re going to have when you look at this figure). I mean, if they actually allow him to glide around, I could see wearing them, even if they do make Raptor look ridiculous. But if they have no use at all, and he’s just wearing them for show…wow.

    This guy would be an amusing fourth-stringer Batman villain, certainly, but I can’t see Cobra keeping him on the payroll. It’s hard to imagine anyone who could make Crystal Ball look like a feasible concept for a Cobra agent by comparison, but Raptor…comes damned close.

    And I love Joes that come with pets. They’re usually my favorites.

    Also: Cobra has its own mink ranch? Buh?

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