5. Crimson Strike Team
This 15-figure exclusive was so awesome that the G.I. Joe Convention made it twice, first in 2002 in the classic 3 ¾" G.I. Joe body style and then in 2009 in the modern 3 ¾" body style. Both versions are still in red hot demand. Taking the name of Cobra's elite Crimson Guard literally, each set includes the Baroness, twins Tomax and Xamot, and 12 Cobra Vipers in matching red outfits that are probably the coolest color scheme ever seen in the G.I. Universe. And this is a world where the Village People are the ironclad style template for a top-notch terrorist-fighting force.
4. Starscream Sky Striker
G.I. Joe and the Transformers were roommates in 1980's toyboxes, but on TV they were kept tantalizing apart aside from a few vague references. It was like being forced to eat one piece of Wonder Bread that was covered in Smucker's before you could eat the other piece covered in Jif. Kids knew G.I. Joe and Transformers belonged together but Hasbro tended to keep their two cherished properties from crossing paths.
That finally changed when Marvel Comics released a limited series allowing the two universes to collide, with the Decepticons joining forces with Cobra to ultimately fail spectacularly against G.I. Joe and the Autobots. The landmark event was finally commemorated in toy form at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con with this pairing of Cobra Commander and a Sky Striker jet painted up like the treacherous Decepticon Starscream. (Of note, both characters were voiced in the original cartoons by the same actor, Chris Latta.) A tiny Megatron in gun form was even included so that Cobra Commander could wield the Decepticon leader! Even though this version of Starscream could not actually transform, this nostalgia-heavy set was so popular that it now commands hefty prices.
It also inspired an awesome sequel set in 2012 featuring Destro, a H.I.S.S. tank painted like the Decepticon Shockwave, a tiny accessory of cassette player Soundwave (with tapes!) and a Cobra B.A.T. colored to resemble the Decepticon combiner Devastator. As of this writing the latter set is still easier to find and the prices aren't TOO outrageous, but don't count on that to last long.
For G.I. Joe's 25th Anniversary, Hasbro heavily revamped the classic toys by ditching the O-ring construction and vastly improving the detail and quality of the sculpts. Suddenly, whole collections of classic Joes looked inadequately like the squat, gimpier cousins of modern Joes. Hasbro proceeded to remake the gamut of classic characters in their famous duds but there were a few glaring omissions like Zarana, the pink-haired co-commander of her brother Zartan's band of Aussie pirates, the Dreadnoks. She was a major character whose original 1980s version looked a bit like Bea Arthur attending a punk rock concert with her (embarrassed) grandkids.
There was also a later Zarana who looked like an extra from the movie Hackers and boasted shoulders too wide to pass through most standard doorways. Again, Joe fans were lacking a Zarana figure that fit into their collection of modern era Joes. So, Hasbro finally gave in and released a much sexier Zarana rocking her classic outfit and rock-hard abs. There was even an alternate version wearing a black outfit with a shirt promoting hypnotic Cobra rock band Cold Slither. The only problem was that these figures that EVERY G.I. JOE TOY COLLECTOR WOULD FIND ESSENTIAL were restricted to being very limited Comic-Con exclusives. I know, first world problems, right? But sometimes being a toy collector really blows monkey wang.
2. Oktober Guard vs. Iron Grenadiers
The Oktober Guard was the Soviet version of G.I. Joe that appeared in both the original comics and cartoon as allies to their American counterparts. Credit is due to Hasbro for showing positive cooperation during a time when American kids were just waiting for nuclear missiles to rain down on the playground. The Oktober Guard have gotten various toys over the years, but in 2012 the G.I. Convention dropped a bomb of their own by releasing the whole team in http://www.gijoecon.com/no2012/RAH12set-preview.cfm a massive 15-figure set that also included a battalion of Destro's badass Iron Grenadiers and their wacky bird-themed general, Voltar. All of these were amazingly detailed, designed in the modern G.I. Joe style, and not available anywhere else. All in all, a formula designed to make wallets bleed. That pretty much sums up the self-created hell of adult toy-collecting, doesn't it?
1. Sgt. Slaughter
I just bitched about Hasbro relegating toys of major G.I. Joe characters to being Comic-Con exclusives. Well, they don't get much more major than Sgt. Slaughter! Sure, maybe he was a weird import of a real world fictional wrestling character into a cartoon. But the Sarge pretty much took over, becoming a major leader of the Joe team and even appearing in person to narrate the show. All kids loved him but more importantly admired and feared him, knowing that if they didn't do their homework, Sgt. Slaughter would appear at their front door and bodyslam them straight over the house into the swimming pool. With the character appearing on the show in real live action, anything was possible and we weren't taking any chances.
Even though Sgt. Slaughter was released in two slightly different outfits at the 2010 Comic-Con, the demand for this favorite character keeps his prices on the high end. If you feel a burning desire to put whoever makes these decisions at Hasbro into the Camel Clutch, we'd say you are completely justified.