Sideshow Collectibles 12" Rock 'N Roll - A guest review by Chad Lawless
“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” ~President Teddy Roosevelt
There’s a lot to be said of the new Rock’N’Roll 1:6th scale figure produced by Sideshow Collectibles. Immediate reactions from fans have used such terms as “best yet”, “perfection”, “innovative”, “underrated” and “a true gem.”
I’m here to tell you, dear readers, that all of these phrases are apropos, but I have a few others to add, including “frustrating”, “patience testing”, and “down-right disappointing.”
Weren’t expecting that, were ya?
Don’t worry, I’ll explain…
Let’s start with Rock’N’Roll’s backstory:
Rock’N’Roll is also known as Craig S. McConnel, the Joe’s original machine gunner, sporting an M-60 for his 1982 release. According to his file card, he was described as both “cunning and naive, forceful but shy.”
He was the soldier who spoke softly, but carried a BIG stick.
Growing up on the beaches of his hometown of Malibu, California, McConnel’s life was filled with sun drenched days on the beach, girls in bikinis, surfing competitions, body building and rock music. He was in several local bands, playing bass guitar and rocking out at local clubs.
According to “GI Joe: Declassified”, it was an incident that happened as a child that perhaps set him on his eventual path to the military. While surfing, one of his friends steered his surfboard too close to the local pier and wrecked. McConnel stood by helplessly as he watched his friend drowning, until a large, muscled man charged into the surf and rescued the boy. On the shore, as a crowd looked on, the man performed CPR and saved his friend’s life. Everyone watched and cheered as the boy regained consciousness. Everyone except little Craig McConnel. He was focused on the large tattoo on the man’s bicep. The tattoo of a US Army Ranger.
Rock’N’Roll is known for being fiercely loyal to his friends. Early examples include the back-up story in Marvel comics GI Joe #1, where he is ordered by Scarlett at gunpoint to leave her behind and continue with Snake-Eyes to finish their mission. As the two retreat, he berates Snake-Eyes for their cowardice in leaving Scarlett. He eventually turns to notice Snake-Eyes has indeed gone back for Scarlett, and once Rock’N’Roll finishes the mission, he instantly sprints back to the fray to help his teammates.
And now, 30 years after his debut, enter Sideshow.
The GI Joe line from Sideshow has been giving us fan favorite characters for years now. Some of the choices have been solid, natural selections: Snake-Eyes, Cobra Commander, Duke, Storm Shadow. Other releases haven’t been nearly as obvious: Dusty, Cobra Ninja Viper, and the upcoming Black Dragon Ninja.
Rock’N’Roll falls somewhere in between. Much like Firefly, there’s a niche of fans who really love this character, while other fans acknowledge him as a teammate, but not a primary character.
Regardless, Sideshow Toys has really shown the love to Rock’N’Roll by creating one of their most astonishingly advanced and yet simplistic figures yet.
Rock’N’Roll is given a treasure trove of items to accompany his most basic of necessities.
The figure utilizes Sideshow’s Prometheus 1.2 body with 30+ points of articulation. What’s interesting is that Sideshow has developed new, more realistic arms for this soldier. And they are a BIG part of what’s got collectors and fans going wild with excitement. The arms on our machine gunner are big, bulky, muscular, and life-like. Additionally, the right inner forearm sports a tattoo (!) of a bass guitar with wings. The detail on such a small tattoo is a sight to behold, and you’ll may be tempted to display the figure in a pose that showcases the tattoo, which means he may not be holding his trusty M-60 a lot of the time.
However, I have a gripe (yep, I told you I had some). Despite how great his arms are, his hands do not even come close to matching in color or realism. This is a great disappointment to me, as I’m getting tired of having all of my Sideshow Joes wear gloves. Rock’N’Roll would totally work bare handed. Too bad the paint app on the hands doesn’t live up to the perfection of the arms. It’s down-right disappointing.
The head sculpt on Rock’N’Roll is hand painted, and the artists did a beautiful job! McConnel has gorgeous blue eyes and a slightly naive look on his face. Some have suggested a similarity in portrait to Daniel Craig or perhaps Russell Crowe. I would like to have seen his beard be a touch larger, as we saw in the comics, but this image is definitely more in line with a modern military figure, and the haircut follows suit by not being the big 80’s bangs/wave in the front, but a little bit of a stylish, forward combed look.
If you are lucky enough to purchase the Sideshow “Exclusive” version of the figure, you are treated to an additional portrait of the character: a bandana-wearing Rock’N’Roll. And this is definitely going to be one of the figure’s highlights. The bandana looks GREAT and extremely appropriate. But additionally, Sideshow sculpted in a couple of scars on the right cheek, a bushier beard (presumably for the “been out in the field for a while” look), and a teeth-baring smirk that perhaps indicates concentration (or taunting?) while firing his weapon. For me, this is the best part of the figure and an absolute essential to purchase if you have the opportunity on the secondary market; worth the extra money.
Uniform kit includes a helmet with “Cobra Don’t Surf” carved into the back, as well as 3 additional stickers that you may (or may not) place on his helmet. He sports a triple aught design FAST backpack with tons of zippers and pockets for carrying any essential bonus items, including the aforementioned helmet.
Rock’N’Roll has a slightly worn olive drab BDU uniform, a red tshirt, and a black, flocked beret that looks excellent on the standard headsculpt. He wears beige/tan boots and gets 2 pairs: standing and flexed. He also has 3 pairs of gloved hands and 1 pair of bare hands.
Around his waist and over his shoulders he has a MOLLE belt, H-Harness and Riggers belt. Into these, he can tuck his 2 SAW ammo pouches (complete with brown ammo boxes), a first aid pouch, and 2 canteens with their carry pouches.
Rock’N’Roll’s weapons include 3 of the standard Sideshow GI Joe frag grenades, both a yellow and red smoke grenade, an ivory handled M1911A 45cal pistol with 2 clips and drop leg holster, and the XLMR-3A Laser Rifle (popularized on the classic GI Joe Sunbow cartoon).
(As a side note: Has anyone done a lineup picture of their GI Joes all sporting the XLMR-3A yet? I’d kinda like to see one…)
Next we come to the LMF Knife with sheath. Oh boy. Get out your tweezers! And maybe some scissors. And maybe some super glue. This is one of the most difficult and frustrating elements of the figure. Mine was actually connected to his lower left leg, but had been assembled at the factory incorrectly…. upside down! Once I took the rig off of his leg, I had to get out the tweezers and my small scissors to cut the tips into triangles to fit them through the slits in the sheath so that everything would attach to the rigging. This took me an easy 45 minutes of pure frustration. If you like to enjoy a beer while kitting out your Sideshow Joes, trust me…. don’t when you get Rock’N’Roll. The next problem was with the straps themselves. They are supposed to be velcro. But they just… don’t… stick…
Try as I might (i.e. another 20 minutes), I completely failed in getting the straps to stay connected and hold his knife sheath onto the rigging. If you’re like me, you never plan on swapping out the sheath once it’s in place on the rigging, and Super Glue is your best option.
Finally, we have Rock’N’Roll’s iconic weapon: the MK-43 M-60 Machine Gun.
It is a VERY detailed piece of equipment, featuring rails for a top mounted Red Dot sight and a bottom front mounted vertical grip. Both look like natural attachments and are very welcome on my modern-day Rock’N’Roll. What I did NOT like was the placement of the carry strap. It completely gets in the way of your figure’s hands. Mine is coming off. I simply won’t be slinging it over his shoulder. He’s okay with that. Promise!
The M-60 (still can’t bring myself to call it an MK-43) has some fantastic bonus details in the spirit of California surfers and skaters: he has WRITTEN ON HIS WEAPON! Near the pistol grip, you’ll find “Snake Charmer” scrawled in imperfect lettering. And around the 3 sides of the stock, you will find… wait for it….. ROCK…… N…….. ROLL. All of this adds even more depth and charm to the Sideshow Rock’N’Roll and I hope that somewhere down the road we see more of this on another figure; but let’s not overkill it on every figure, okay Sideshow?
Our guy also comes with 3 7.62 cal Bullet Belts. And here we go again with the frustration. Like any good Rock’N’Roll, you’ll want to loop 2 of the belts in a criss-cross design around his torso. The operative word here will be PATIENCE! This is a patience testing proposition. They will definitely go on, but you have to be very careful and will perhaps need multiple attempts to stick them together. But once you do, they really look great.
(As a “correct military” suggestion: be sure to point the bullets DOWNWARD as they lie across his torso. Bullets up is incorrect, apparently.)
The 3rd bullet band fits snugly into the M-60 and then can be left to hang, wrap around McConnel’s forearm, or even slip into the top of one of his SAW ammo pouches.
There is an assortment of patches that you can select to put on your figure, from US flags to GI Joe nameplates, unit patches to “McConnel” patches. Choose the one you want. No right or wrong answers here, friends!
Sideshow’s Rock’N’Roll figure comes in the same style of classic GI Joe 1:6 packaging as his predecessors: a 2-part box with a magnetic closing flap. Most importantly, the box is built so that you may remove the figure and then repackage him as you wish. He looks great when displayed in his box, but he looks best when he’s out on a shelf with the rest of your figures (or on top of the refrigerator, reminding you not to touch the ice cream until after dinner).
It is this reviewer’s opinion that we are looking at potentially one of the most sought after GI Joes in Sideshow’s line of collectibles. Not only is his attention to detail and likeness pitch-perfect, but Rock’N’Roll also offers old-school fans a great opportunity to mod him into other characters. I can easily see taking my spare head (I only plan to use the bandana portrait… it’s that great) and repainting it a salt-and-pepper black to create a Clutch figure, or maybe even a Breaker or Steeler. Heck, he could even make a decent Snow Job. The BDUs, riggings, and boots are generic enough that they could be used to create just about any of the 1980’s Joes.
I also want to take one moment to speak about 3rd party weapons. If ever there was a Joe screaming for an after-market weapons system, it’s Rock’N’Roll. Zy Toys has a “Jesse Ventura-style” Gatling Gun and backpack that can be had on eBay for around $40 that will look amazing with this figure. There is also a DiD Browning 50-cal made entirely of metal with metal bullet bands that will definitely find it’s way into Rock’N’Roll’s hands from time to time; at least until we get our Sideshow Roadblock…
Final thoughts: Despite his flaws (bare hand paint app, knife sheath, bullet bands) this is a figure who is definitely worth the money. His charms and look easily justify the $134.99 pricetag.
Grab him while you can, folks. You’ll be sorry if you don’t!
Rock’N’Roll is on “wait list” status as of this writing at SideshowToy.com for the standard version, at $134.99. The Exclusive edition is currently considered “sold out”.
There are multiple listings on eBay for both standard and Exclusive editions, and online retailers are offering the standard figure as well.