The 90s saw the original run of the 3-3/4 in G.I. Joe A Real American Hero line continuing to surge into the era of the sub-team. Battle Corps, Ninja Force, Sonic Fighters, and more were hitting the toy store shelves, catching kid’s eyes with their bright packaging and card art, neon color palettes, and real-firing spring-loaded weapons and accessories. Packed within those new and shiny toys were various mail-away catalogs and offerings that shined a light backwards into the tales of Joe’s gone by.
In the early ’90s, Hasbro was still sitting on a surplus of various toys and figures that were pulled from their retail runs throughout the 1980s. The general idea was to keep the stock on the shelves dynamic and changing so consumers would not become stale to the brand seeing the same offerings, as well as keeping up with all of the new content in the ever-evolving associated IP (comic series, cartoons, etc). Sometimes these surplus items were sent back to the factories to be retooled or repainted and re-released into a new offering. Others, however, were offered life again as a mail away catalog “exclusives” that could be purchased with a combination of money and Flag Points; Hasbro’s vintage version of the modern-day loyalty program. One such catalog was the Terror on the Tundra offering. Strap on your snowshoes, and pull down that balaclava as we dive into this winter wonderland of action!
The catalogs themselves, as was the format since their inception, told a mini-story as you perused the pages to look over the goods. Page 1of Terror on the Tundra throws us right into the action with Serpentor finalizing his plan to contaminate the world’s ozone layer with the release of odorless, toxic pollutants released from Cobra’s Arctic missile launch sites! Luckily, G.I. Joe was able to intercept Cobra’s Arctic communications system and dispatches a strike force to take out the Cobra threat
These first pages offer a vintage smorgasbord of vehicles from all across the classic years to choose from. On the Cobra side, we have Serpentor atop his Air Chariot (pictured but not included in this offering) as well as the “Cobra Patrol Unit” aka FANG helicopter of 1983 fame. Serpentor was originally exclusively packaged with the Air Chariot vehicle in retail, so this was the first opportunity to grab him as a solo figure. Also for the first time, the FANG copter comes with a pilot of Strato-Viper, who was originally packaged with the massive 1986 Night Raven Jet and an accomplice of Motor-Viper, now reassigned to the cold arctic from his 1986 Stun. The Joe’s counter with the 1983 Polar Battle Bear ski-mobile, as well as the full armada of PAC/RATs battlefield robots, a deal at $3.00 for the set vs the $1.59/ea they sold for at original retail. Considering Serpentor’s Air Chariot, though was only $4.20 for the figure AND vehicle, that may be the only deal to be had here. I guess Cobra needs to fund their operations somehow.. but let’s turn that page!
The battle heats up as Cobra sends in the big guns with the 1987 WOLF [Winter Operational Light Fighting Vehicle], suited for purpose with its ski-pedo launchers and mobile missile battery. Alongside the 1988 Adder which is basically a Surface-to-Air Missile Launcher on wheels. Apparently, Cobra was becoming pretty successful at global warming activities since all the snow around the Adder seems to have already melted! In reality, the art department simply reused one of the old catalog photos which depicted a desert battle scene, and keen eyes will spot the chopped-off G.I. Joe RPV on the side of the photo.
As the battle for your dollars continues, Joe counters by sending in the Hovercraft!! all the way from 1984. This floating arsenal of awesomeness was every kid’s bath and pool time friend and every adult collector’s aquatic cringe-fest with its arsenal of small, fragile, and easily lost accessories; and whatever you do, don’t touch the veins!! Next up is the 1984 Slugger howitzer tank minus its original driver, Thunder. Alongside a new, and rather cool offering, the 8-piece set of Micro Vehicles! These vehicles were never originally released in retail and were a true exclusive to mail order. The vehicles were a compliment to their micro-figures collection which was packaged on various figure cards throughout 1987-88. The 8 vehicles are miniature versions of their big brothers: the MOBAT, APC, HISS Tank, VAMP Mk II, A.W.E. Striker, Snow Cat, Persuader, and Warthog. Their battle effectiveness may be in question, but their cool factor was undeniable! But how does it all end!?!?
In the closing moments of the Terror on the Tundra battle, Cobra relies on its old faithful HISS Tank from 1983, the vehicle equivalent of the Star Trek red-shirt (woah, genre-mixing alert). While every version of the HISS donned the same ‘788’ service number, which must have made the Cobra motor pool accountants relieved, collectors will note that this mail-in version came with white numbers as opposed to the standard retail red versions, or the earlier-retail clear numbers:
And finally the cast of characters, Hawk, Iceberg, and the Blue Ninja, aka Storm Shadow in his jammies. While the story ends on a cliffhanger, for a grand total of $104 and 25 Flag Points, you could recreate the entire thing and end it any way that you like. Not to mention, probably have the coolest parents on the block if they ordered the whole cat…!
This one is especially fun for me to look back on, as this was a catalog that I actually had as a kid and ordered from. My vehicle of choice ended up being the Cobra Adder as that’s all the pocket money and Flag Points I could muster back then, but I still have it in my collection to this day. Collector me would have loved to have the set of Micro Vehicles as I think that’s arguably the scarcest thing that came out of this particular offering, but collectible hindsight is always 20/20.
I hope you enjoyed this look back at the Terror on the Tundra catalog as much as I did. This is my first contribution to The Retro Network family and I look forward to many more vintage memories and Joe articles for all of you. Yo Joe!
There’s a lot more toy fun to be found in these features:
- Five Fun Matchbox Toys
- Ring Raiders: Crashing on Take-Off
- Girl Meets (Game) Boy
- Looking Back at the Dick Tracy Toy Line
- A Brief History of Battle Beasts