If Cobra has a signature vehicle, it’s the HISS tank. Debuting back in 1983, the HISS quickly captured the imaginations of fans, serving as the back bone of mechanized divisions of the “ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world”. The vehicle itself has seen a number of re-releases as well as three subsequent “upgrades” to the original model and yet fans are still drawn to the original design. Ironically, as enduring as the popularity of the vehicle has been the same cannot be said of its original pilot. The original HISS driver was a bit of an anomaly for the early forces of Cobra. Clad not in the signature blue but rather in striking shade of red, the driver’s uniform was more “science fiction” than those of his comerades. Over the years, the driver faded into obscurity until resurrected in the 2000 reissue of the original tank as a named character known as “Rip-It”. Now, 25 years after the original figure debuted, the HISS driver returns and this time makes more of an impression.
If the 25th Anniversary line has proven one concept it is how to effectively reuse parts from one figure to form the basis of at least two others. This HISS driver is an excellent example of this notion—the figure’s torso and waist are the very same as those used for both the Flash and Grand Slam figures released earlier this year. (This same torso would have worked fantastically for the forthcoming Major Bludd figure as well.) Only the figure’s legs and head are new—with the former necessitated by the farther distinctive thigh-high boots worn by the original figure. The combination of old and new parts works surprisingly well to recreate a design that otherwise fell of my radar at a very young age. The torso, with its smooth armored plate, works well to update the original HISS driver design with a needed dash of reality. The boots, seemingly more at home in a sci-fi leather fetish film, don’t come across nearly as ridiculous as I had initially assumed. In fact, the figure’s design, which is primarily red and black with the only use of blue found on the chest plate, comes together in a fashion that the original figure wasn’t able to pull off. In the new design there is just enough variety of color scattered throughout the entire figure that the figure appears to be more than just a “vast sea of retina-burning red” with a blue chest plate. I’ve never really had a use for the HISS drivers before but this character design has forced me to reevaluate my opinion of this classic vehicle driver. I’m sure Justin has his own take on the figure’s body design.
I’ll admit it right up front, like Fred, I sort of detested this figure back in “the day”. It was scrawny and strangely designed, with a very bright red, blue and silver color scheme that just looked a bit strange at the time. He has been the backbone of the COBRA armor division pretty much since the beginning, but the design was so “out there” that I just couldn’t get over them. But as the years have gone on, I’ve kind of come around on the HISS Driver design, even with a dated overall look. I’m a huge fan of the 2007 Convention Rip-It figure, and that figure alone has almost fully converted me to “HISS Driver fan”. But still, the figure is a bit scrawny and doesn’t fit with the more current day offerings.
With the Anniversary version that is a completely different story. This figure lends itself to the Anniversary design nearly perfectly. I love how Hasbro took the tooling for the Grand Slam and Flash, yet somehow removed the “etching” and worked it into the backbone for the HISS Driver, and it’s a brilliant move. Sure, there are some distractions, like those arm pads that were just kind of ignored and slapped with red (but still stand out) but for the most part, the Flash tooling works to near perfection. With an updated head sculpt and those terrific new legs, this figure doesn’t need a bunch of new tooling to make it a credible figure. I LOVE those padded armor legs. They have a certain solidity to them that makes them work a lot better in this more modern sculpt than it might have for the vintage versions. A great, great update. I do wish the COBRA logo was a bit larger on the chest, but that’s a somewhat minor complaint for an altogether great looking figure.
The original HISS driver was one of the early ARAH era Joes whose head sculpt never quite worked for me. The helmet was an odd design with prominent silver goggles, a mouth scarf, and a peculiar crest atop the helmet. I could never tell if the helmet was meant to be all encompassing, ceremonial, or a bizarre fusion of the two. The new head sculpt for this figure retains the puzzling original design and yet manages to provide enough detail that the figure’s design isn’t so ambiguous. The face scarf is nicely sculpted and the helmet’s crest, while still puzzling, is much more obvious that it was in the original design. There’s even a more pronounced chin strap on this figure than on the original which one and for all clears up the question of whether or not this is an all encompassing helmet or simply head protection with a chin strap. (Okay, maybe I’m the only person in the world that wondered about this. It wouldn’t be the first time.) While I do find the helmet to border on a bit too small, it’s not so disproportionate that it stands out. What’s your take on the head sculpt of this latest vehicle driver, Hawkmeister?
I gotta agree with you on the point of the headsculpt, I’ve never been a big fan of the design, and I really have a hard time figuring out what they’re going for. The fin, the mouth scarf, it’s all sorta weird. But in translated that vintage weirdness to some 25 th Anniversary weirdness, I do think the design team has done a good job. It is still iconic to the HISS Driver and remains so, even with it’s inherent strangeness.
My only real issue with this figure is a very minor one and it is located on the figure’s right thigh. In order to add even more detail to this classic design, Hasbro added a functional holster on the figure’s leg. This is a nice detail which serves as a great way to store the figure’s sidearm—something that was lacking in the unarmed 1983 version. The holter is, however, the thickest one that Hasbro has produced to date. As such, it makes putting this figure into anything other than a remodeled “no-ring” HISS tank a bit trick as the figure’s right leg is a bit too thick to fit into the cockpit easily. It’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things – especially in light of the forthcoming mass market reissue of the HISS but it’s something that I felt needed to be pointed out. So Justin, am I just nitpicking here or do you have anything that you feel could be improved on this figure?
I do think you’re nitpicking a tad. Personally I’m loving the holsters and removable weapons, and I really like the authentic way that the rubber flap folds over the pistol when it’s inside. I mean, let’s face it, these figures are designed for the new Anniversary retooled vehicles, not the vintage ones, so I think complaining that they won’t fit into a vehicle they’re not designed to fit into is the same as complaining that an Indiana Jones figure (with legs spread and a T-crotch) doesn’t fit into a Target Exclusive AWE Striker. They’re different lines, so I don’t see it as an issue. Do they fit the current incarnation of the HISS? Yes. That’s all that really matters to me.
I’ll be honest— this is one of those cases where I prefer the “no-ring” figure to the classic version. It’s hard to argue that the sculpting on this figure blows away that of the original 1983 version and that the improved detail makes this figure far more dynamic that its ARAH ancestor. I do believe that Hasbro erred in their case packs for this wave and personally I would have removed the extra Snake Eyes in favor of an additional HISS driver. (After all, you think that Cobra Trooper is going to be allowed the Target exclusive HISS for long?) As a result of the case packs, I have the feeling that these figures are going to be in short supply for those fans who want to re-crew their HISS tanks with anything other than an army of Cobra Troopers or Rip-It figures. In many ways, Hasbro might have been better served by putting Rip-It in this wave and then packed the HISS tanks with the HISS driver. Regardless, my advice to fans of this figure and the “no-ring” style of construction is to snag this figure upon seeing him in stores. Recent waves have proved surprisingly hard to find and this figure’s case ration makes him all the more difficult to find.
I agree, Fred, this is a great figure in the wave, and far and away the best Troop Builder in Wave 3, no question (which is amazing to me, since the Viper is part of it). I think they will be in pretty high demand, considering the numbers of HISS Tanks that Joefans bought for $10.00 at Target. These are high quality figures and troop builders to boot, which is a dangerous combination for the 25 th Anniversary line. Great figures that are worth purchasing, but get ‘em when you see ‘em, because I have a feeling those opinions will be shared by many other fans out there.