Toys / Comics to Toys / G.I. Joe

G.I. Joe Retro Collection Cobra H.I.S.S.


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By Hervé St-Louis
May 15, 2021 - 21:32

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The Cobra H.I.S.S. tank also known as the High-Speed Sentry tank is the first Cobra tank released in the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line in 1983. For years, it was the main combat vehicle for the Cobra troops in the cartoons and the comics when they fought G.I. Joe. An original design, the Cobra Hiss tank was designed, in the G.I. Joe universe’ fiction, as a very fast tank that could not deploy as many troops as other vehicles and with limited weapons and armour.

This is the toy that Hasbro has released in 2020 for collectors of the old A Real American Hero under the banner of the G.I. Joe Retro line. I must admit that this toy is a favourite of mine and I already have a few, one with me, two in my parents’ basement with the rest of my original vintage collection. One of them is a Hiss II tank which is also frequently re-released by Hasbro. This Retro Hiss tank that I will review here will be compared with the original that I have with me.

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Likeness

The Retro Hiss tank is almost like the original, but the mould is newer, or updated in parts. For example, the caterpillars are virtually the same but with minuscule changes. The cabin Is the same depth as in the older Hiss tank. I have read reports that erroneously claim that the cabin is lower, giving the four inches Hiss tank driver more room. What really changed in the cabin is not the depth but the back seat panel that is thinner allowing the longer legs of a four-inch action figure to fit inside the cockpit.

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The biggest change, besides, are the guns which are thinner and made of a different plastic. The classic look of the Hiss tank remains regardless of the sculpts changes. It is still an elevate tank that cannot shoot ground-based vehicles as easily. For me, this has always made the Hiss tank a surface to air attack tank as opposed to surface-to-surface vehicle.

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The Cobra H.I.S.S. Driver is the modelled after the original character who drove the original Hiss tank. What was always interesting about this action figure was how much he was a precursor to the Crimson Guards action figures that came two years later. They were the same bright red with a full helmet and black accent throughout their uniforms. I like the Hiss Driver’s design better than the narrow headed Track Viper that drove the Hiss II tank.

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Sculpt

The sculpt continues the bulkiness of the original Hiss tank and some of the design flawed that made this tank so iconic. The glass-covered cabin is unsafe for a driver. Yet, this design has influenced scores of other G.I. Joe vehicles that also did not take the safety of their troops seriously. Some obvious culprits that were inspired by the Hiss tank are the 1985 Snow Cat, the 1986 HAVOC, and even the 1984 SHARC.

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The high turret on top of the gun where a gunner fits is reminiscent of the tank design G.I. Joe was going for at the time, first with the 1982 Mobat, with Steeler on top and many other tanks such as the 1984 Slugger. The 1984 Asp and the 1985 Mauler. The toys designers wanted kids back then to see the driving action figure clearly, even though the characters, if they were in a real-life tanks, would have been overtly exposed to enemy firepower.

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Of course, the threads are moulded and do not move. Horizontal wheels back their flanks and allow them to move. These are loose enough to make the tank roll but not so much. There are two peg holes allowing up to two figures to stand on the back of the tank, but there are no handlebars for them to hold on. The two characters standing on the back would also get in the way of the pivoting turret should it spin backward to hit a target. The turret is also a problem for the cabin. They have to be turned away so the glass cockpit door can open.

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These design flaws are all part of the classic Hiss tank and although illogical and highly dangerous for anyone driving and gunning of the tank, they look cool as hell! The 1989 Hiss tank II tried to correct some of the flaws of the first Hiss by allowing troop transport, allowing the cockpit to open from the bottom and providing better and lowered weapon options. While the updated design of the second Hiss tank made it a better battlefield tank, the design was flawed by techno-babble plates that changed the industrial and plain armour into a high-tech mess of circuitry and features. Visually, the original tank and the retro one look much better although they are less functional tanks.

The Driver is a bit meek but with added bulk thanks to the protective vest he wears. Let’s be real, the Hiss driver is not the highlight of this toy. The tank is!

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Paint

There is no paint application on this toy. It is the base plastic and stickers. Now, the stickers are updated from the original Hasbro ones from 1983. I recommend pasting some of them, such as the codes that belong on top of the tracks, before assembling the caterpillars with the body of the tank. The headlights at the front can be a bit difficult to paste properly but if using a pen or thin brush, it should work.

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The vest of the Driver is painted blue with a silver Cobra logo that easily robs off. Only the lower part of his thighs are painted black as the shins and feet are cast in black plastic.

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Scale

The Hiss tank is not a huge tank and fits well with other three and a half quarter and four inch action figures and toys.

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Stability

Despite the front facing cabin, the Hiss tank is sturdy and will not flip over. There is not enough weight at the front of the tank for it to topple over. It is also flat enough at the base to not topple over easily. But now, can this tank move quickly? Well no. It is supposed to be a high-speed sentry but the horizontal wheels under the threads are not loose enough. They grip better on cloth than harder surfaces. On dirt roads or sidewalks, the tank will not roll very much. The Hiss II could roll much more but its front cabin was also heavier and so it could easily fall forward. Again, this classic design, regardless of its limitations, is the sturdier toy.

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Articulations

The turret can rotate, and the glass cabin door opens. That’s it. The toy does have a hook to which other vehicles can be attached to, but there are scant new Cobra vehicles released now that can use this feature. One would also have to find the remote lift to connect the two vehicles.

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The Hiss Driver has articulations at the head, the shoulders, the elbows, who can also pivot in lieu of bicep curls. His chest can crunch a bit even though he wears an armour piece. He can rotate his waist, has double knee articulations. The action figure is flexible enough to fit and squeeze inside of the cockpit.

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Plastic

The plastic used for the Hiss tank is strong and built for rough play from young kids. That’s okay. The box says that the toy is for kids aged 4 and up. Hasbro is right. G.I Joe toys back then were tough. My almost 40-year-old Hiss tank is a proof that this toy is well-built. The only concern is the canopy hatch that could break and can easily be scratched. The turret will loosen over time and fall down, much like my older Hiss tank here.

The plastic for the Cobra Driver is PVC and feels a bit cheaper than the tank.

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Props

There are no props for the tank nor the Hiss driver. A gun or a pistol would have been a good addition for the driver. The Driver does have an action figure stand.

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Packaging

The Hiss tank comes in retro packaging with slightly updated art that looks much like the original box. The beauty of this box is that like all older G.I. Joe A Real American Hero toys, it features a profile card on the driver and blue print instructions and stickers for the tank. You cannot be more retro than that!

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Cost

I ordered my Hiss tank from Hasbro Pulse. These are supposed to retail for about $24.99 USD. Ordering from Hasbro Pulse is expensive for Canadians. With the exchange rated and shipping, this toy cost me about $65 CAD.

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Availability

The toy is an exclusive to Walmart in the United States and Canada. I have never seen one in Canada which is why I ordered mine from Hasbro Pulse. Hasbro Pulse released this toy on their site because collectors had trouble finding them at Walmart. I wish this toy was distributed to all stores. I would like to army-build Hiss tanks. I already have my old one with me, and an older one in my folks’ basement that has been stashed for years.

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The Hiss tank, regardless of its design flaws is an incredible toy. It is incredible because of its unique and nonsensical design. Only Cobra could man an army with such weird looking vehicles and weapons. But it does not matter. The Hiss tank with its protruded cabin is as iconic as the Star Wars Walker, which it resembles to some extent. It makes no sense to like a H.I.S.S. tank but I do! This is what toys are about!

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Rating: 10 /10



Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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