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Zarana

GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

You know, it was one thing when Hasbro was making GI Joe SDCC exclusives out of unusual alternate outfits or characters with complicated rights issues - it's quite another when they start in on characters who should have been made as a normal release.

Zarana is an astounding mimic and a quick study. She's also rude, tight-fisted and generally mean. She needs only moments of observation before she can assume a subject's body language and voice characteristics down to the smallest detail. While her brother Zartan makes his impersonations work with exact physical resemblance, Zarana becomes her subject, going as far as trying to think like him or her.

Ever heard the term "Method acting?" It refers to the system of techniques developed by Russian actor/director Constantin Stanislavski to help train actors to give real emotional weight to their portrayal of characters. Part of that involves purposely thinking like the character you're portraying, which means that while Zartan is all about the makeup and disguises, his sister is a Method actor. She's Daniel Day Lewis, he's Eddie Murphy in The Klumps.

When the first Zarana toy was released in 1986, the figure had two different heads - not as a disguise gimmick or anything, but as a running change. The first had a very pinched face and a distinct mohawk, while the second version was fuller and had more of a poofy hairdo. This figure seems to be based on the original, just done much, much better. She has harsh features accentuated with metallic lipstick and eyeshadow, is wearing small golden earrings, and has her hair buzzed into a very nice mohawk.

The majority of the sculpt is just as new as the head. She wears the same kind of armored pauldrons as her brother, but they're not a shared sculpt like they were in '86: she's a woman, and has a woman's anatomy, which means her arms are thinner than Zartan's, and there's no way the pieces could be swapped. She's wearing her ripped pink shirt and faded low-rise jeans. The shins come from Resolute Scarlett, but her feet (with their sculpted spurs) and her knees (with their floating kneepads) are new. She's got padding on the insides of her legs, and a big gash on the left leg reveals the fact that she's apparently wearing pink tights beneath her jeans.

Articulation is just as you'd expect it, with a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel gloves, balljointed torso, balljointed hips, double-hinged knees and swivel/hinge ankles. The torso joint is hidden particularly well beneath the edge of her shirt. She comes with three weapons: a golden dagger that sheathes on her right leg, a black and silver copy of Ripper's gun and an update of her classic rifle/saw weapon. Fun fact: when I was a kid I refered to that as her "war saw" - because of reading filecards that said so-and-so was proficient with all "Warsaw Pact" weapons.

Continuing the trend of past years, this year Hasbro has offered a chase variant of the SDCC exclusive. While the normal release sees Zarana in her '80s colors, the variant (known as "Cold Slither" Zarana) painted her all in black: black boots, black pants, black gloves, black shirt, black shoulder armor, black knife, black hair, black facial tattoos.

Cold Slither is, of course, the fake rockband Cobra put together (with the Dreadnoks in rainbow wigs as the "band") in order to brainwash the world via subliminal messages. Which is still not the dumbest thing Cobra ever tried! Anyway, variant Zarana's shirt reads "Cold Slither North American Tour 1985" omn the front, and has a list of tour dates on the back: they're mostly cut off, but you can make out Cleveland, Cincinati, Toronto, Philadelphia, some mystery town in Massachusetts, Providence, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego. (The Mass. town ends with "oods," which doesn't seem to line up with anywhere real.)

Zarana is a good figure, if you can get her - like most of the GI Joe exclusives, she was a quick sell-out. But if we're being honest, she was a good choice for an exclusive: she has a very distinctive look, one which wouldn't fit in with the current Pursuit of Cobra aesthetic; seriously, can you imagine her on one of those cards? She'd look terrible. It wasn't a question of "release her as an exclusive" or "release her in stores," it was "release her as an exclusive" or "don't release her at all." Okay, yeah, we can accept that, but let's get one thing clear: Zandar would look just fine on a POC card, so make it happen, Hasbro.

-- 08/19/11


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