Unknown - Mystery G.I.Joe Figure
MYSTERY OFFICIALLY SOLVED & CONTEST FINISHED
To see the original Yo Joe webpage of this figure. See Here
See the Blood for the Baron article that solves the mystery. See Here
To see Ron Connor's Blood for the Baron article. See Here
From Ron Connor:
It has been nearly a decade since the mysterious "Gray Flash" figure was introduced to the G.I. Joe community. My purpose was to find answers to its origin. This is the story behind the Mystery Figure and the Bombardier discovery.
I found the Mystery Figure in September, 1999 at the Whiz Bang Toy Store just outside of Orlando, Florida. Just getting to the store was a chance event since it was a 2 hour trek and I had never been there before. As soon as I purchased it, my search began with the store owner, Mike Herz. For those who don't know, Mike is an icon in the G.I. Joe world. Mike was one of the early promoters of Hasbro sanctioned G.I. Joe Conventions, from 1994 to 1997. Mike had many contacts inside the creative world of G.I. Joe and acquired tons of prototypes from former employees. His best explanation of its origin was that it likely came from Kirk Bozigian, Hasbro's Vice President of Boys' Toys. Mike purchased bulk lots of G.I. Joe items from Kirk and the Mystery Figure was thought to be among those items. It has been a long road these past 10 years of searching. I assumed it would be difficult finding out its origin. But I had no idea how hard. I needed help, so I created a contest!
Back in 1999, the landscape of the collecting world was very different. There weren't nearly as many G.I. Joe websites or books as there are today. At least there was enough reference material to rule out any U.S. release of this figure. So that left two basic answers. Either it was a prototype, or an international release figure. Prototype knowledge was still in its infancy. The international information isn't very plentiful either. There was only one good website and one 16 page booklet that covered international Joes. After a year of searching for more archives, and asking all the contacts I had made, I knew it was time to involve the Joe Community as a whole. Thus, I created the Mystery Figure Contest.
Read about all of the different False Leads that came to Ron over the years.
Confrontation with Kirk Bozigian:
After owning the Mystery Figure for 5 years, I had my chance to finally get to the bottom of this mystery. In 2004, the GI Joe convention came to Disney in Orlando, Florida. The presumed former owner of the Mystery Figure, Kirk Bozigian was an attending guest. At the convention, Derek R. Anderson and I were set up as dealers selling the first of our 3 G.I. Joe books we authored together. Kirk was a guest at the show, and I spotted him coming down the dealer room aisle towards me. I started getting nervous as I thought this was surely going to be my big chance. With the Mystery Figure in hand, I approached (ambushed) him with questions. Kirk's response was slow and measured as he reminisced about the days gone by. He started giving me lot of interesting information, about the time period and about all the mock up plans Hasbro came up with and never saw the light of day. But he was very apologetic as he could not remember anything specifically about my figure. He kindly reminded me of a huge fact I never bothered to consider. How is a middle-aged man suppose to remember a specific figure from 20+ years ago, when he'd been involved with hundreds of GI Joes in his career at Hasbro? My heart sank as I realized how time can bury so many interesting details about the history of GI Joe. After that conversation, I never really expected to ever find the answer since the original owner couldn't remember any details.
Bombardier Mock-Up Discovery:
In February of 2009, Jim Marshall contacted me and asked a simple question. Was the Mystery Figure Contest still active? After a few quick emails, he informs me about an article he was posting on his Blood for the Baron website. The article was written by a Palitoy Historian, Dave Tree. The article explains the discovery of a straight arm prototype version of my Mystery Figure found in a museum in England. Upon reading the article, I had a wide range of emotions. My emotions mostly bounced back and forth between relief and skepticism. The information seemed too good to be true. Read all about the discovery here.
Why I believe in this Discovery:
Since this discovery, I have taken some time to evaluate the stories, pictures and community reaction (not to mention, writing this response article). We all can agree there is a huge pile of circumstantial evidence that can add up to support this new discovery. The good reputations of Jim Marshall and Dave Tree would seal the deal on its own. The background stories and the fact that many people thought this Mystery Figure had ties to Europe made this information appear solid. If this truly is the authentic mock-up prototype, there should also be hard physical evidence that would withstand even the toughest critics. Factory Employees, and Palitoy paperwork is scarce, and anyone just looking at the mock-up could dismiss it as a hoax, because someone could simply hand paint a 1982 Flash and call it a mock-up prototype.
However, Dave had nothing to hide and he kindly made the trans-continental call to the United States. We talked for 2 hours, yes, 2 hours. We discuss many minor details that weren't elaborated upon in the discovery article. Those additional details all lined up with a solid, logical story.
There was one final detail that I thought was very interesting. It involved the eye paint on the mock-up figure. The eyes appeared irregular and Dave confirmed they were also hand painted. By themselves, the eyes don't seem to make a difference, but let me make an illustration. There is ample proof that Hasbro gave Palitoy several 1982 unpainted test shots to aid in Action Force's change between the 5-point articulation figures and the O-ring constructed figures. The key was confirming this Bombardier mock-up was done on an UNPAINTED test shot. Now onto the eyes: anyone who customizes figures can tell you how hard it is to hand paint two matching eyes, eye lashes and brows. It's extremely hard to match Hasbro's factory paint mask. So anyone attempting to pull off a hoax would mostly likely not go through stripping the original paint and painstakingly reapply the eye paint. Thus, simply paint over a factory painted Flash. If they were ever questioned, they could just say Palitoy was only given production level figures to create mock-ups.
This goes against what we already know, Palitoy did use unpainted test shots. I know of at least 3 different stockpiles of 1982 test shots that have ties back to England. First, Dave Tree has pictures of several test shots he found in this English museum mentioned in the discovery. Secondly, I remember an English retailer that sold several 1982 prototypes years ago. And third, Mike Herz had several 1982 test shots. Mike was the source for my 1982 prototypes. And I believe he also received some of his supply from Europe, along with dozens of factory bubbled "overstock" figures, like Red Jackal, Quarrel and Blades! Looking back, it is ironic how Mike had 3 major components at his store, the Mystery Flash, a boat load of European Factory Overstock figures, and 1982 prototypes, thought to be from Europe. Which begs the question, could this Mystery Flash figure have came over directly from Europe along with the Overstock and 1982 prototypes, and not from Kirk Bozigian in the United States?
Customs, Confusion, and Distinguishing Details:
One of my initial fears when I started this search was chasing down false leads if customs started popping up. If you have ever searched for a genuine "Rocket Firing Boba Fett", you know what I mean. If there is every a claim for an identical figure to mine, there are a few hidden characteristics that make creating a "custom duplicate" impossible. Thankfully, all the customs I have seen are well advertised as a customs. The first custom I ever saw actually used the straight arm Flash (see below). How ironic, since Palitoy's mock up also used the straight arm body style. Remembering this custom figure was the root cause to my initial skepticism.
Dave Tree is continuing to look for more details as he is granted access to the UK Museum. Perhaps Dave's discovery will shed greater light in Palitoy's direction and others can get involved in finding out what else may be out there to be discovered. The future of the hand painted mock-up is clear. Dave mentions that the figures in his article "do not belong to a collector, and will neither be available for sale as they are owned by the UK State Museum." That still leaves my Bombardier the only one in the Joe community. I hope more can be found, but hope is fading since most sources have been searched in the past 25 years. This journey has been rewarding, from fielding offers of information, to offers to buy it from me. Thanks to Jim and Dave, my search is complete for this unique piece of G.I. Joe history.
God Bless and Yo Joe!