Some figures succeed marvelously at the strength of their design, regardless of how common or popular the figure is. However, there are many figures out there that succeed not on the strength or affect of the figure design itself, but because of the very rarity of the figure.
A perfect example of this is the Argentinian Exclusive COBRA Mortal, a figure that has been in the “press” lately as the latest Convention Exclusive revealed by Master Collector. Made out of a scrawny, pretty common ’83 mold, the COBRA Mortal is colored in a haphazard red/black, and chrome fashion, and I guarantee, if it were a commonly released figure it would be scoffed at and laughed at by the majority of collectors. However, because it’s part of the revered “Argen Seven” this figure becomes a highly sought after and desirable piece, that collectors feel honored to even see in person, much less own for themselves.
I think the same holds true for many of the figures of domestic release as well, Hardtop included.
Now Hardtop is not nearly on the level of COBRA Mortal as far as rarity or desirability…heck, he’s not even on the level of Heavy Metal. But with an easy-to-lose microphone and a pistol that is sometimes-there, sometimes-not, a complete Hardtop has become a holy grail to collectors and something people pay in the neighborhood of $50-65 for.
But, as with Mortal, I would argue that it is the rarity, and NOT the design of the figure that causes this desirability, because frankly, the figure itself is pretty boring, in my opinion.
The mold itself looks to be designed around someone focused on construction or heavy machinery, which makes sense for his specialty and work on the Defiant Gantry, but it makes for a pretty dull figure overall.
His head sculpt is fairly “blah” with a plain hardtop and non-descript face, although the microphone is a nice additional detail. His wide nose and plain eyes are the epitome of problems with some of the original facial sculpts, which by and large had a lack of detail or “character” per se. Hardtop fills that mold and he ends up looking somewhat boring from the neck up, regardless of the very cool microphone that he comes with.
I guess the look suits the character who is labeled as being quiet and untalkative, but still, the figure immediately just looks somewhat…uninteresting, to say the least.
Honestly, the dullness of the mold continues right on through the rest of the figure. The normal looking uniform adorned with strange pads scattered throughout and thick padded straps just make the figure look chubby almost and he is definitely an “Earth-borne” Joe, not meant to actually go on missions in the Space Shuttle itself. That hurts his functionality, since the most fun part of the Defiant is taking it into space, and he simply doesn’t fit in with that crowd. There are some nice little details on the figure as there always are, with a well-placed pistol holster and boot-knife, but essentially there just isn’t enough happening with the figure, and the details that are there seem kind of superficial and non-functional.
The colors certainly don’t help issues at all, either.
I’ve gone on record as saying that I don’t mind some funky colors and actually like the way the brighter Joes stand out on display…but Hardtop just doesn’t work to me, for some reason. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s an older Joe and I’m used to the subdued colors of the stuff from ’82-’86, or if it’s just that strange shade of baby blue (and the ugly white that compliments it) but the colors here just do NOT impress me at all, and actually end up hurting the figure. The combination of that gross white and bright blue just makes for a bland looking figure with a bland color pallet…a combination that does not work.
Hardtop doesn’t come with much in the way of gear, but what he does come with makes this figure as popular and expensive as he is. Every version of Hardtop comes with his tiny little white microphone, an accessory that can be almost painful to locate. It’s not painful to FIND a microphone, but once you do find it, your wallet will definitely feel the burn afterwards as you can expect a $50-60 hit. Not to mention the pistol, which was apparently only packaged in certain Hardtops…not all of them came with it, making it a VERY tough to find accessory, which is unfortunate because the pistol is very, very nice. Thankfully the Convention version of Hardtop from a few years ago has a pistol…though it’s not in black, it’s still a nice, realistic shade, and can still be used as a fun gun, even if it’s not the original.
So, all in all, Hardtop does maintain a pretty strong level of popularity, but I think it’s mostly due to his hard-to-find accessories. The figure itself honestly isn’t that exciting or interesting, but a complete version always has a big draw. It helps that he also came with one of the greatest toy playsets in the history of toy playsets. If you don’t have this figure, and don’t feel a need to, I don’t think you’re missing anything. If you do own a Defiant, Hardtop makes for a nice addition to it, but an incomplete one (at vast savings) will work for display purposes…frankly, though the Payload figure is a ton nicer than Hardtop, and frankly makes for a much cooler crew.
For completists, this guy will prove challenging to get, and unfortunately, you may find that if you’re into the figure design itself, he may not have been worth the big bucks.