SDCC Exclusive Sgt. Slaughter
If you'd told me a year ago that Hasbro would announce a Sgt. Slaughter figure as a ComicCon exclusive, I'm not sure I would have believed you. If you'd then told me that not only would he be an SDCC exclusive, but that many fans would be hating it? I would have thought you were absolutely nuts.
Ever since the shift to the Rise of Cobra in 2009, the fandom at large has been rallying for more 25th Anniversary era figures, and I would imagine Sgt. Slaughter, a Sunbow mainstay, would have been at the top of the list. Sure, ole Sarge has his detractors, but by and large I think most fans, if they don't love Slaughter himself, they at least appreciate his place in the Joe mythos and understand what a big part of G.I. Joe's history he was.
But it's not the fact that Slaughter was chosen as an SDCC exclusive that's driven fans' ire...it's the way they did it.
Hasbro had a decision to make, I suppose, when it came to designing Sgt. Slaughter. Would they go over the top, or would they keep it real? Ultimately they kept it real, and I think that has soured some fans on the end results.
In a way, I can see their perspective. G.I. Joe, especially in the Sunbow world, had it's share of outlandish situations, and Sgt. Slaughter was perhaps one of the most outlandish. His personality was over the top, his actions were over the top...he was a single focal point of ridiculousness among a sea of it in the Sunbow cartoon. So why would Hasbro take this character... or more like caricature... and decide to make him so "real world"? It's kind of the opposite of his entire personality in the cartoon.
So yes, I can see where some of the fans are coming from in that regard. If this was a true homage to the Sunbow Sgt. Slaughter, he'd have huge, ripped pecs, a 6-pack, and muscles upon muscles. Instead, John Warden went the "less is more" route and sculpted him in much more realistic proportions...and that has gotten some fans upset, understandably.
Myself? I'm a bit on the fence. See, if you look back through the history of the 25th Anniversary line, this is kinda what they did. They blended the Sunbow aesthetic with a more realistic style to get us figures that were sort of a hybrid. Airborne had all of the trademarks of his old school figure, but looked much more realistic military. Same with Flint... Lady Jaye. Snake Eyes. Pretty much everyone. So why should Sarge be different? I guess the hitching point is that Slaughter is based on a real person, and when Hasbro dipped into the well of the "real world" they had actual source material, and the factual source material doesn't necessarily mesh with fan desires for the character.
Good grief. This is just a toy...am I over-analyzing? Probably, yeah...but that's kind of my gig.
Personally...I was never a Sgt. Slaughter guy, not even back then. I much preferred my soldiers with firearms over the nearly superhuman single man wrecking crew that Sarge became. So maybe it's because I'm not so vested in the character that the way he's designed doesn't bug me all that much. I think he looks a hell of a lot like Sgt. Slaughter...what's wrong with that?
For an exclusive figure, the amount of new tooling here is pretty much astounding. From what I can tell, this is a brand new figure from head to toes and even if you're not wild about the style, you can't argue with the detail and the quality. His arms and torso are very simply designed, very understated (which is, unfortunately, the opposite of what Sarge should be), yet extremely well done. His legs come off being a bit on the stubby side, but the boots are absolutely fantastic. Very nicely sculpted and detailed, and looking like they came straight out of a wrestling ring.
But by far the main draw here are his hands. With one hand sculpted in a pointing jesture, and the other a more natural grip, Sgt. Slaughter is prepped to bark some orders...but he's got another trick up his sleeve. One wrist bends back and forth (as well as swiveling!) and the other wrist bends up and down (again, alongside the normal swivel joint). These are two very cool additional articulation points that allow for even more customization with the figure's pose. I have no idea how they managed to work that articulation in there without sacrificing quality, but the joints feel just as solid and secure with the extra pieces there as they did without. Remarkable.
As the main release in the SDCC Exclusive this year, the Sarge with the "Mail Away" deco looks terrific. Very much like he did in the day. Olive drabs and blacks...a great tampo of the Joe logo on his leg as well as the sergeant stripes on his boots. If I have a complaint, I'm not wild about the USA logo happening right over the break in the torso, though I'm not entirely sure how that could have been avoided. Every time you add a point of articulation, you risk sacrificing some design aesthetic, and I'd much rather have the movement than the look.
The main release version of Slaughter doesn't come with a ton of accessories, but what he comes with is simply awesome. Of course Slaughter's gotta have his two-pegged battle stand so he meshes with the rest of the Anniversary line seamlessly. But he also has his trusty baton, a G.I. Joe labelled championship belt, a microphone, and a removable whistle! Lots of small bits and pieces that give you one hell of a nice final package.
Along with the standard release and the "mail away" deco, Hasbro is also selling the "TTT Driver" deco as a special variant, which is also how Slaughter appeared in the Sunbow cartoon. Because he is arguably more well known in this look than he is in the standard one, I'm thrilled that Hasbro thought to include this version as an alternate variant.
The tooling is the exact same as the mailaway version from the waist up, for obvious reasons, but Sarge is wearing his black tank top and some immaculately detailed, more military styled, camouflage pants. The end result of this paint scheme is a fantastic rendition of the G.I. Joe drill instructor that looks just like he did back in the day (minus the musculature).
The Sgt. Slaughter variant comes with much more standard military fare for his weaponry, with a nicely packed out .50 caliber machine gun (to re-enact his stand off with the Thunder Machine in G.I. Joe #51!) as well as a revolver and the same whistle and baton the regular release comes with. I find myself loving the variant version a whole lot more than the regular version here, and I hope they don't end up too hard to come by.
In recent years Hasbro has done well by G.I. Joe fans and the SDCC exclusives have been fairly accessible to folks who can get on HasbroToyShop. I'm hoping this year proves to be the same.
In the end, I can certainly see why some folks would be complaining about the style that Hasbro chose to go with on this particular figure. It was a definite decision that they had to make, stick with, and live with. While I probably would have preferred a jacked-up super muscular Sgt. Slaughter from a pure camp perspective, I also appreciate how hard it is to design a figure that looks so "real" and from an execution standpoint, I think the design team did a remarkable job on both of these figures. If you have a chance to get one for $12.99 it's an absolute no brainer. This fills a huge hole in the Anniversary roster, and in my opinion, the figure is pretty damn nice to boot. If he gets hard to find through the secondary market, I might have a different opinion, but at this point, I think Sgt. Slaughter was done a credit with these two figures, and there are definitely a lot of things to love here. If I were to have my preference, I would have loved an over-the-top musclebound Sarge straight out of the Sunbow cartoon, but this toned down realistic version has his own appeal, and the more I mess around with the figures the less I care about the understated physique.
From a deco point of view, as cool as the standard release is, due to the broken up USA logo and just because I love the camouflage paint scheme of the variant so much, the variant definitely gets the edge from the coolness perspective. Not to mention the fact that he's more accurate to the Sunbow cartoon version. So while I do like both figures, the variant is definitely the cooler one in my book, which might irk some folks, though I'm hoping these figures turn out to be as easy to acquire as the last couple years of exclusives have been.
GRADE (Main Release):
GRADE (Variant Release):