Review by Fred Meyer & Gary Godsoe
Evil Scientist – Code name: Dr. Archibald "Venom" Monev
G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Adventure Team Exclusive Figure - Part of a two-pack with the Adventure Team Commander
In 2010, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club blurred the lines between the 1:6 and 1:18 scale fandoms by releasing a series of 4” scale Adventure Team figures. Three of the sets comprised of a carded Adventure Team member and a mission-appropriate vehicle for that particular specialist. However, the first set to completely sell out was a bit different. It included the Adventure Team Commander but instead of a vehicle, the twisted geniuses at the GIJCC found a way to virtually guarantee sales of this product. You see, Joe fans, this set didn’t include another repainted addition to the motor pool but instead saw the release of a long-sought after addition to almost every G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero collection—the release of the infamous Dr. Venom!
For this review I’m joined by long-time G.I. Joe fan and show-runner of the “What’s On Joe Mind” podcast—the esteemed “Venomologist” Gary Godsoe! (Note: the review was written in early March 2014, prior to the GIJCC's clearance sale.)
Greetings Fred-o! All I have to say is that it’s about time we got one of our beloved comic only mythos characters. Hell, Big Lob appears in one, VERY bad cartoon and we got a figure of him. Venom appeared in 9 issues of the comic between his debut in issue 10 to his death in 19 (taking with him other fan favorites Kwinn and Scar-face) and it was like pulling teeth to get him. He had far more of an impact on the overall Joe mythos than a lame basketball player did. Venom was the only guy who took the fight to Snake Eyes in an era BEFORE we knew about all his ninja super powers. Venom made Snake Eyes look almost human. Venom’s legacy far outlasted his 9 issue run. The Brainwave scanner carried forward beyond Marvel issue 150 into the 155+ with IDW. Now THAT says something!
The history of Dr. Venom and the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club actually dates back earlier than the 2010 release of the Adventure Team 1:18 sets from the Club. Instead, the history of this particular figure dips back to a fan campaign and a slide first shown during the GIJCC roundtable during the 2009 Joe Con held in Kansas City. For a history of the “Dr. Venom” campaign, I’m going to turn the keyboard over to the “man behind the curtain”.
As a political science major, I know the value of a good campaign. It isn’t necessarily the loudest who gets heard, it’s the one who executes a better PR campaign. If you do it right, send a very well worded message, a very small minority can be heard loudly enough to be noticed but not too loud to be considered a nuisance. I mean, let’s face it, toy collectors can be a nuisance. We bitch and moan on the boards, scream that the club is out of touch and over use the word HASBLOW. I mean, who on earth is going to listen to us if we sound like that?? It comes down to the old adage, its not what you say, but how you say it. After years of putting Dr. Venom down on my forms, I decided to put the PoliSci skills to the test once more and launch the Venom campaign. With the help of other dedicated fans in the community we developed bumper stickers, political-style buttons, and a Venom custom in the custom contest to support the “Dr. Venom Now!” campaign. We funded the thing out of our pockets and GAVE everything away. Who doesn’t like bumper stickers? Even better, who doesn’t like a free political button? Needless to say, they were all hits at JoeCon that year. Message delivered. As it turned out, it was message received. So for those of you clamoring for the club to make character X, send a message, but do it the right way; the polite way; and the fun way. As we say on the show, DBAD – Don’t Be A D**k!
Dr. Venom made his character debut in Marvel Comics G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #10 when saw print back in 1983. In the issue, Snake Eyes is captured by the Baroness and returned to Springfield where the good Dr. is ordered to interrogate him using the Brainwave Scanner. In the issue, Venom is portrayed as a middle-aged Cold War scientist. As such, his character design was the epitome of that profession during the early 80’s: collared shirt, tie, lab coat, and dress trousers. To recreate this design with minimal new tooling, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club had to get creative with their use of existing parts with the resultant combination utilizing almost the entire upper body of the 25th Anniversary Cobra Trooper, the upper legs of the 25th Anniversary Storm Shadow, and the lower legs of the second 25th Anniversary boxed set Shipwreck. It’s a parts combination that only some of the most seasoned customizers might have considered but it works remarkably well in recreating the utilitarian look of the inventor of the Brainwave Scanner. The addition of a lab coat over the top of the torso completes the ensemble and the result is a near-perfect recreation of an “Atomic Age” scientist. Only the pips on the sculpted shirt collar betray the fact that this shirt might have had other origins but they’re really not all that noticeable. One nice bit of detailing is the use of light gray plastic for Venom’s torso which is matched by a paint application on the sculpted cuffs on the figure’s hands. Kudos to the twisted genius at the GIJCC who came up with this particular recipe! So, as an esteemed “Venomologist”, what’s your take on the figure’s body Gary?
OK, so we got shut out on the SDCC James McCullen body. Hasbro apparently had other plans for it. More than likely the Professor X figure that came out a year or two later for the Marvel Universe line. So we get a painted on tie and Rex’s lab coat. You know what, for as long as Fans of Venom have waited, beggars can’t be chooser. So while we would have liked to see another torso all together, we’re taking what we got offered to the bank and loving it while doing so. A nice post script to the body we all wish we got, it looks like the club finally got access to that SDCC tooling and we’ll get it for the 2014 Convention Joe Colton.
When this figure first was released a lot of fans were left scratching their heads because of Dr. Venom’s head. (Ironic, eh?) The head sculpt used by the Club was definitely new to the generation 3 era of G.I. Joe but it also looking oddly familiar. At this point, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club wasn’t spending a lot of dollars on new tooling outside of Joe Con sets so where did this head come from? It wasn’t until someone somewhere posted the answer online that fans collectively exclaimed “A-HA!” (My apologies to whomever first discovered this. I’d love to give credit where credit is due on this.) The head sculpt did indeed have its origins in G.I. Joe—just not as a Joe proper! Instead, the GIJCC tooled a new head based on the Liu Kang figure from the 1994 Mortal Kombat line. Interestingly enough, the head works for Dr. Venom from his earlier appearances. (Later in the series he began to resemble Grand Moff Tarkin as portrayed by Peter Cushing in Star Wars: A New Hope.) According to the file card and subsequent appearances in the GIJCC newsletter, this is Dr. Venom “Pre-Cobra” and so it makes sense to use a younger countenance. Oddly enough, the grim and determined sculpt of Liu Kang ends up coming across as more of an annoyed sneer which is very much in keeping with the character of Venom. He was a condescending sociopath in the comics and this sculpt captures that quite well. Granted, as a true connoisseur of Venom, Gary might feel differently.
You know what Fred, I will give credit to one of the first “A-HA!” folks who noticed that. It was our good local pal Daniel (Indiana COIL Club represent!). He pointed that out on Facebook and the club indeed did confirm the observation. Indeed, most customs I always saw of Venom had him with the Tarkin head which would seem to fit the character better, but like you said, this is a younger Venom in the pre-ARAH days when he was fighting the Adventure Team, not the older Venom we saw in the comics. It works!
In terms of gear, one might be inclined to think of Dr. Venom’s kit as “a bit on the light side.” After all, the good doctor is packaged with two automatic pistols and two small stoppered vials that were originally seen with the Valor vs. Venom release of Dr. Mindbender so long ago. You could also argue that his overcoat is part of his kit, but I consider that an essential part of the figure’s overall design. With the sleeves being what they are, he doesn’t look right w/o the coat. So, technically Dr. Venom is a bit light on gear—until you consider the fact that he was packaged with a giant plastic man-eating plant! True, the plant is technically a shared accessory between Dr. Venom and the Adventure Team Commander but let’s be honest—if anyone created the plant, it was Venom and so I consider “Audrey II” to be his accessory as well. In all honesty—I don’t think that this figure needs anything else to be included with it. It’s not like this is “Battle Brigade Dr. Venom” with a giant spring-loaded missile-firing launcher and a plastic tree of neon weapons. This is a mad scientist and personally I’d be more scared of what he has in those two test tubes than of any weapon he could have been given. The only change I might have suggested to the Club was to have swapped out the automatic pistols with a pair of Lugers as that would be more in keeping with his comic appearances. However, that’s something that is really more of a personal preference. The two pistols work quite well in my opinion. So, Gary, what do you think? Should Dr. Venom have come packaged with more gear or not?
Freddy, you couldn’t have put it any better. The vials are a must have. The dual 45’s…eh…doesn’t fit the character. In a perfect world he should have come with a German Wehrmacht Lugar pistol as seen in the comics, however I don’t think the tooling existed at the time. No worries, which is why we have Marauder John. Gear up today!!
Ah, the giant plant… let me just say that I’m not entirely unbiased when it comes to thing. The mutant plant accessory actually had a much soggier debut in the world of G.I. Joe. Originally released as part of the 2007 12” convention set Terror on the Sea Floor as a “mutant clam”, this piece has been repurposed in a lighter color scheme to represent a more terrestrial creature. (Thanks to the generosity of Roger Taft, I ended up with one of these at the 2007 con which eventually made an appearance in the 25th Anniversary Torpedo review!) Oddly enough, when I first saw this piece I thought it resembled a Venus flytrap far more than any species of clam or mollusk. While this accessory was initially scaled for the 12” line (as evidenced by the AT logo on the spring-loaded release for the “mouth”) it works very well with the 1:18 scale figures—if you’re willing to accept this as a plant that could eat a buffalo in one meal and still be hungry later. The tendrils, which are scaled to fit around 1:6 scale wrists now instead menace 1:18 scale limbs. It’s a fun accessory and, even though I might have rather had more gear for Dr. Venom it’s still amusing to have a second one of these floating around the house now. I don’t know if Gary cares one fig about the plant or not? Anything to add, Master Podcaster?
I am not a fan of the evil Audrey look-a-like. It works for the Terror on the Sea floor 12” set as a clam, but it’s a stretch for a mutated fly trap. Venom never struck me as someone into botany anyway. He’s more into human experimentation. Although this does not fit well into the ARAH world, it does float in the Adventure Team mythos well enough that I will give the club credit for walking the fine line between 12” GiJOE and ARAH GI Joe.
Few non-toy characters in the G.I. Joe mythos have inspired the following that Dr. Venom has. Whereas characters like Candy “Bongo the Balloon Bear” Appel, Spigou, Magda, the White Clown, or even Billy have failed to be realized in plastic form, fans of Dr. Venom were not satisfied until he saw release. Perhaps it’s the cold purely villainous nature of the character or maybe it’s the fact that, unlike Dr. Mindbender, he actually LOOKS like an evil scientist. Regardless, it look the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club to finally bring Dr. Venom to the shelves of Joe fans everywhere and the result is pretty darned stunning. It’s a younger Venom than fans might be used to but it works in capturing the evil doctor in his early days with Cobra—before Scarface, before the bunker in Sierra Gordo, and before his final fateful encounter with an Inuit mercenary named Kwinn. This is a solid figure and one that most long-time Joe fans are going to want to own. Be forewarned—Venom isn’t cheap on the secondary market and the GIJCC has been sold out of him since 2012. However, if you have any sort of nostalgic feelings regarding the inventor of the Brainwave Scanner, you’ll want to snag this figure immediately—if you haven’t already.
The Bottom Line: A near-perfect recreation of a classic Hama comic character! This figure is an essential addition for any fan of the Marvel Comics run!
Now that I’ve got my long-winded rambling out of the way, do you have any closing thoughts Gary?
You don’t have to know anything about the Adventure Team to enjoy this (one and probably only) version of Dr. Venom. He’s not perfect in this die-hard Marvel fan mind’s eye, BUT he will do. My guess is that the fandom agrees since this is, to-date, the only of the 4 AT v Venom sets to sell out. Why? Because I think the fandom FINALLY put their money where their mouth is. WE asked for it. WE got it. WE bought it all. For all of the Wait For Ross crowd we have in the fandom, it says something when this sold out at the club premium prices. Good work GIJCC. Time to work on the next campaign: Billy Now!
Questions? Comments? Think that David Tennant's head would have been a better choice?
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