The only constant is change.
– Heraclitus, Greek philosopher, ca. 500 BC
The only constant is change, and people complaining about the Duke arms.
– Mike Irizarry, misadventurer, social critic and G.I. Joe collector, ca. May 2008
The world of G.I. Joe is about a year removed from the introduction of the Rise of COBRA canon, and is already poised to switch gears again into the world of “Pursuit of COBRA.” Before too much longer, Hasbro’s new television network will launch and fans will be elbow-deep in product related to the new G.I. Joe animated program, “Renegades.” Mind you, I’m not complaining. I tend to be of the line of thinking that finding new wrinkles in the property keeps it fresh and invigorated. If Hasbro hadn’t been willing to let G.I. Joe change with society’s tastes over the years, it would’ve died long before I got involved with the property as a seven-year-old in 1982.
One change that I really liked was the introduction of the 25th Anniversary line after the collapse of Sigma 6, and I know I’m not alone in that regard. We’re almost two years removed from the end of that particular phase of the GI Joe property, but fans are still scouring Family Dollar and Big Lots stores trying to bolster their COBRA Eel, Bazooka Trooper and BAT armies for rock-bottom, close-out prices. Hasbro’s still throwing some classic characters out there, too, like Heavy Metal (Rampage) and Thunder (Sgt. Thunderblast) in the Rise of COBRA line and Low-Light later on in the “Pursuit of COBRA” line, because they know that us old guys still haven’t seen some of our favorites make it back. So before we completely close the book on the 25th Anniversary line and the glory years of G.I. Joe, I present to you, dear reader:
The Top Ten(ish) G.I. Joe Characters Who Still Need A Classic Interpretation Remade In The Modern-Style Sculpt
Wow. That is one clunky title. Oh, well. The truth is very rarely pretty. Onward and upward!
10. Tan Grunt and Tan Clutch (1983 and 1984, respectively): I don’t indulge the urge very often, but the completist in me has been clamoring for these easy repaints for a long time. Considering the amount of action the U.S. military is seeing in desert climates these days, I think gearing up these two classic characters in more desert-friendly colors would be appropriate as well as historically accurate. If they could be used as an excuse to get a Modern Sculpt-compatible VAMP Mark II as well, I wouldn’t complain, either. Just be sure to put Grunt’s head on one of the “Original 13” long-sleeved bodies (like the rest of Collecting America did after it picked up the Duke/Red Star comic two-pack) and the men in tan would be golden.
9. Leatherneck (1986): As Maxwell Smart might lament, “Missed it by that much.” There have been two versions of Leatherneck released in the modern sculpt, and while they both borrow from the character’s original representation, neither truly capture his classic look from 1986. Granted, the first version matched up with the 1986 Special Missions: Brazil set (and perhaps more importantly, the tan AWE Striker it was packaged with), and the second one, packaged with the RoC Tiger Claw has a green uniform. Sadly, neither really makes the grade.
The homage to Special Missions: Brazil was pretty unnecessary, considering how ugly those figures were. Granted, Leatherneck was the best-looking figure in that set by a long shot (save it, Claymore fans… no Joe in leopard-print camo will get props from me in the looks department), but it makes about as much sense as a silver Wet-Suit or a red-trimmed Mainframe; which is to say, none. It’s probably for the best that the dark green, recently-released one isn’t true to its roots either, because it’s only available at retail in Canada. First off, Leatherneck needs a proper torso, not a repainted Buzzer part that still screams “Dreadnok” regardless of how you paint the blatant and totally out-of-place metal shoulder guard. Second, maybe reusing the dreaded Duke arms again wouldn’t be the best idea for a character that carries a machine gun. (See, you were wondering what that second quote was at the beginning. Turns out, it’s not just there to be funny!) Leatherneck got a decent run on the Sunbow cartoon and even a few nice story parts in the Marvel comic, so his omission from the Anniversary in his classic togs is unacceptable.
8. Footloose (1985): Not even halfway in, and controversy has been rearing its ugly head all over the place. Mike, you idiot, I can hear you thinking testily towards your computer monitor (don’t ask how), don’t you remember the Footloose figure in the RoC “Troop Builder 5 Pack Set 1 of 2?” (Winner name on those sets, by the way.) You’ve wasted my life griping about two characters that have already shown up!
Well, of course I remember it. I like it, too. It’s a got a good-enough facial likeness of the character, and except for the SWAT helmet, it’s a great re-imagining of the character. However, re-imaginings are not what this article is about.
Footloose was the quintessential post-Vietnam infantry soldier, clad in his woodland BDUs and armed with the standard US military M-16. The Sunbow cartoon gave him a decent amount of spotlight and a distinctive personality, so he’s hardly obscure. Honestly, if Hasbro or the GIJCC repainted the 5-pack Footloose and gave him the proper helmet and gear, I’d be pretty happy. Footloose is one of the characters I’m more passionate about getting re-done, but the fact that we’ve had a “close but no cigar” version pushes him down the list a little bit. Honorable mentions go to Law & Order and Repeater from the same set, although they left a much smaller footprint in G.I. Joe lore.
7. Roadblock (1992): A great figure hidden in a day-glo era, the ’92 Roadblock is my favorite incarnation of the character from the old days. Okay, except for the leg bandanas, but still…it’d be a neat addition because of the history behind the figure, as well as a change to finally put a decent cranium on a Modern Sculpt Roadblock figure. Since the first version of the ’92 Roadblock was recalled due to safety concerns on its spring-loaded whats-a-ma-doozit (yes, that’s the technical term), it’d be pretty funny if they gave the big fella some obnoxiously large missile launcher in modern times, too. I imagine a whole slew of new parts would be necessary, since the real purpose of it would be to get a non-pinheaded Roadblock that’s worthy of display among the other great figures of the 25th Anniversary line.
6. General Flagg and General “Iron Butt” Austin: How great would it be to see a Toys R Us three-pack with the real G.I. Joe command team in it? How much more great would it be if one was a fat Joe that wasn’t E. Honda?
Here’s the recipe: put together a mold for a figure in dress greens, put a repainted Short-Fuze head on one for Flagg and a Hawk head on another for, um, Hawk. Then make a shorter, stockier version for Austin, which could be repainted and re-used as Admiral Ledger from the Sunbow cartoon in a later three-pack. Yes, we’re spending a lot of Hasbro’s money on this entry, but you know what they say about omelets: I like mine Denver-style. Wait…
5. Airtight (1985): I’m not entirely sure how this hasn’t happened yet. Airtight would need a distinct helmet, chestplate, and gear, but wouldn’t a repainted Barbecue body with Flash arms work pretty well for the Joes’ hostile environment specialist? Airtight is a longtime personal favorite and a fairly conspicuous absence considering his occasionally prominent role in the Sunbow cartoon and the comic books. Like Footloose, Airtight was given an update back in the Direct-To-Consumer days, but that release left me pretty cold.
Okay, the real reason he’s here is because Justin wants to re-create “The Funhouse” in a dio-story.
Alright, no. But admit it, that’d be a fun reason, too.
4. Kwinn: Big kudos to the GIJCC for releasing Dr. Venom in its 3.75” Adventure Team offerings. That figure made a lot of long-time fans very, very happy. One can argue that Dr. Venom, despite dying way back in Marvel’s “G.I. Joe” #19, was one of the most important and memorable characters to the original G.I. Joe comic mythos. Too bad he was only half of the equation.
Kwinn was Venom’s muscle, a mercenary whose strong sense of honor often clashed with Venom’s sniveling serf-servitude. He was the most interesting character in the first two years of the G.I. Joe comic this side of Snake-Eyes before he met his end at the hands of Dr. Venom, but not before dispensing some justice of his own. Unlike Dr. Venom, Kwinn was released as a figure in 2004 as “Tracker Kwinn,” as part of a comic-book three-pack. However, that figure has Kwinn in his arctic gear, not the jungle khakis he wore in his other appearances. Many collectors have long clamored for a “standard” Kwinn figure.
With our history lesson completed, I have no easy ideas for a Kwinn figure using existing parts. But man, how great would it be to have an awesome Kwinn figure to strangle that great Dr. Venom figure on your dresser?
3. Techno-Viper (1987): Techno-Vipers showed up in the G.I. Joe line at a tough time. In 1987, the Sunbow cartoon ceased production after G.I. Joe: The Movie, so there was no camera time for them to be had, and as a faceless subset of the COBRA hordes, there wasn’t much of a cause for them to receive speaking parts in the Marvel comic book, either. They just had to make due with being a great toy, with a distinctive look that positively swam in accessories. If Justin were writing this article, he’d call them “bad-ass.” (For the record, I am still not a ghost-writer for Justin. I have friends and a blender and great hair.)
I remembered how much I love the Techno-Viper figure only recently, and thanks to “Alexx Shorts” on Joesightings.com. Alexx uses them as the wise-cracking comedy center to some great G.I. Joe product reviews. Considering the collecting community has been presented with COBRA Air Troopers, Para-Vipers, Stinger Commanders and a host of other army-builders that didn’t exist in the ARAH world, lending a hand to the humble Techno-Viper shouldn’t be too much to ask. I can envision a purple-clad COBRA Trooper body (with a HISS Driver torso) with some original gear doing the job fairly nicely.
2. COIL Infantry Trooper: Along the same lines as the Techno-Viper, this would be a great army-builder… aaaaaaaand yes, I figure I’ve stretched this inside joke long enough.
2 (actual). Cover Girl (1983): Cover Girl in her traditional togs is easily the most glaring omission from the G.I. Joe ranks. She’s the oldest character that hasn’t been recast for the Anniversary line. Let me add that I don’t have any great love for Cover Girl as a character. In my mind, she held a lot more potential as an armor specialist than anything else, if for no other reason because she was the only woman in the motor pool. She was in the quasi-leadership position that all the female characters were in on the Sunbow cartoon, she got lost in the shuffle a bit in the Marvel comic, Devil’s Due re-routed her to intelligence and as such turned her into a not-ready-for-prime-time Scarlett, and IDW seems intent to shoehorn her in as Shipwreck’s girlfriend. I won’t pretend to have any answers as to what would make her more interesting, but she’s been making me yawn for over a quarter-century now.
That’s also the heart of the issue: she’s been around too long to be ignored. The Wolverine was one of the first ‘Joe vehicles I got, so while Cover Girl maybe didn’t have the biggest hand in my early adventures, she was around an awful lot. I suspect I’m not the only fan in that boat, either.
She’d be pretty easy to put together, too. She’d have to have get a new head and probably arms, too, but attaching them to a re-colored Lady Jaye body would do the job pretty well, if she got a brown vest to finish her “jacket.” They could even release a repaint somewhere down the line in her green-togs-and-blonde look from “The MASS Device.” Just please, please don’t use the RoC Cover Girl head again. For a figure depicting a woman who’s an international supermodel… well, arf. “Arf” is really all I can say.
1. Zarana and Zandar (1986): Zarana’s a character that I always felt was force-fed to us in both animation and print. She brought more to the table than Cover Girl, but for a while there it felt like Zarana was everywhere. After her introduction, it seemed like she was on every episode of the cartoon, tearing masks off her face like so much toilet paper off a roll, and then getting written into an awkward semi-romance with Mainframe. The Marvel comic treated her more like the vicious mercenary she was (despite her becoming the unrequited love object for Road Pig), and like many of the more major characters in the book, she hung around much longer than her action figure was in retail stores. However, despite my feelings towards Zarana, that doesn’t change the fact that for whatever the reason for her inclusion, she was there for some pretty important stuff. (She was around for a lot of unimportant stuff too, as she popped up a few times in the awful DiC cartoons of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s – again, well after her figure was gone from the shelves.) The Dreadnoks have been largely glossed over in the Anniversary offerings, but not having Zarana is a huge oversight. I’d even accept a not-particularly-‘80s-accurate version, as I don’t have a great desire to spend eight dollars on a female action figure with a pink Mohawk.
As for Zandar? Honestly, I could care less. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a Zandar figure. I just figured I could save Hasbro the trouble and advocate him now, too, since fandom will immediately cry out for a Zandar to finish their Zartan Family set after receiving a Zarana. Maybe the three siblings could make another exclusive three-pack? Hmmmmm…
There you go, folks. It’s the end of another long-winded list article. Go forth and discuss with your friends, family and fellow collectors. Admit it, though… mine tick you off a lot less than the ones you read in Wizard magazine.