For the last week, I’ve been thinking about original three-and-three-quarter G.I. Joes. The catalyst came last Sunday when, kicked out of the house this morning to allow for yet another home showing, we went out to hit a flea market in Atrim, Ontario, and later onto antique store just outside of town that I don’t get to as much as I like, and was able to come out of the trip with at least something for my efforts, including a Real American Hero Wild Weasel.
Wild Weasel got me thinking to the old Hasbro three-packs. At a time when Hasbro has switched to the Valor vs. Venom style of figures that reigned during the early and mid-2000s, these three packs (running from 2004 to 2006) were a rare chance to get original body Joes. But it was more than just a mere retread of old figures. The way Hasbro moved forward was to package three figures with an old Marvel Comic, using the comic story to determine the figures to be released. So original Joes were released in comic-accurate (and frankly more interesting) colours than their original offerings. Frequently, the updates included new outfits, with remolded heads and parts to better make the transition to plastic. Even better, the series offered characters never before released, like Kwinn, General Flagg (the senior), and the October Guard.
A fan wank if there ever was one.
Now the series wasn’t perfect. To keep the line interesting, popular characters like Snake Eyes were reused to the exclusion of other variations. Certain variations that would have made sense (Helmeted Cobra Commander) were not included. And not everyone came out with the best accessories (the case of Zap and his missing bazooka). But the biggest trouble was that the line wasn’t simply not meant to last.
Hasbro initially released three packs of the first nine issues. They then switched to an approach whereby they cherry picked certain notable comics from the ongoing series, like the silent issue #21, rather than find themselves constrained by story lines where key characters dominated the several issues (the whole Kwinn/Venom sub plot that ran through most of the mid teen issues). And then the 25th anniversary line appeared, with new body architecture, and the three packs evolved to match. Three packs became two packs, and the line continued with the new bodied Joes for a few more years.
But this was a line I wanted to see continued, as unlikely as it was ever to be and probably only because of my OCD, right through the entire G.I. Joe run. And in particular I wanted justice done for the two red armour plated soldiers known as Flash and Grand Slam. Flash was part of the issue 8 pack, but packaged in a space suit. I wanted him in his classic garb. And Grand Slam was the sole missing figure from the first 15 figures released in 1982. I wanted him represented too!
So, at the end of the line, I started dreaming up what I would do with an Issue #10 and #11. And the idea has peculated ever since, until I am forced to write it down. So, aided by a re-reading of the original Marvel trades, I’m creating my list:
- Issue 1: Baroness, (Hooded) Cobra Commander, Cobra Soldier
- Issue 2: Scarlett (judo uniform), Snake Eyes (arctic), Tracker Kwinn
- Issue 3: Stalker (tan and green fatigues), (Double) Clutch, General Abernathy (Hawk)
- Issue 4: Zap, Grunt (as mercenary), Snake Eyes
- Issue 5: Steeler, General Flagg, Cobra Officer
- Issue 6: Daira, Brekhov, Shrage (October Guard)
- Issue 7: Horrorshow, Stalker (green and black fatigues), Stormavik
- Issue 8: Short Fuze, Flash (in space suit), Rock ‘n Roll
- Issue 9: Breaker, Scarlett, Hologram Cobra Commander
- Issue 10: Dr. Venom, Zap (as Cobra Soldier), Scarlett (as Cobra Soldier)
- Vehicle Set: Issue 6: October Guard six-wheeler with Flash (with tan armour, unreleased 1997 style)
- Issue 11: Snow Job, Rock n’ Roll (in parka), Wild Bill
- Issue 12: Gung-Ho, Breaker (undercover - in civies), Stalker (undercover - white suit)
- Issue 13: Hawk, Torpedo, Richter (mercenary)
- Issue 14: Destro, 2 X Cobra airtroopers
- Issue 15: Quinn (in shorts), burned Snake-Eyes (maskless), Dr. Venom
- Issue 16: Cover Girl, Tripwire, Baroness
- Issue 17: Grand Slam, Ace, Cobra Pilot
- Issue 18: Grunt (desert), Airborne, Scarlett (with orange helmet)
- Issue 19: Doc, Scarface (with removal helmet), Major Bludd
- Issue 20: Clutch (in civies), Cobra Trooper (with Jet Pack), Arbco Security Guard
- Issue 21: Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, Red Ninja Viper
- Issue 22: Grunt, Zap (in dress uniform), Flash
- Issue 23: Baroness (black suit), Major Bludd (Undercover), Storm Shadow (Undercover)
- Issue 24: Duke, Destro, Roadblock
- Vehicle Set: Issue 16: Double Pilot HISS Tank (with HISS Driver)
- I treated the first nine three-packs as untouchable, as well as #21 and #24, even when some flexibility would have made for a better rounded selection. Moving General Flagg from #5 to #19, and making #5 a Clutch, Steeler and Breaker combo would make for a better set of figures for both issues, just as Duke and Roadblock would have been preferred for Issue #22. But second-guessing Hasbro would have opened a bigger can of worms (mainly whatever happens if I decide to actually make these figures and stick them on cards…)
- I have prevented myself from reusing any character, unless I gave them a significant overhaul. Multiple reiterations of the same character is boring to me, and I’m actually disappointed that Stalker ended up in the first batch of nine three packs in very similar uniforms. Thus, the undercover versions of Stalker and Breaker, civilian Clutch, the parka-ed Rock n’ Roll, and the “battle damaged” Snake Eyes. In all five cases, each character lend itself explicitly to the issue in question (although by #15 Snake Eyes had mysteriously gotten a new glove and mask) Admittedly, I cheated a bit here with Hawk and Scarlett, but only just. Hawk is wearing a very cool variation of his original uniform, with a black top, in Issue #13, and Scarlett never seemed to get her orange helmet so it was a good fit for the battle royal in Libya portrayed in Issue #18 (even if the orange helmet was really shown in Issue #13). Desert Grunt was a nod to his Falcon attire in 1983 as much as an effort to round out a difficult issue for unique figures, and I hope to be able to do similar justice to Grand Slam’s silver variant in the future.
Working in my favour was a willingness to use new Cobra trooper uniforms (see Issue 14) and creating the vehicle packs (and a willingness to bend the figure rules therein.) While it would have been better to put an October Guardsman with their six-wheeled vehicle, there weren’t any that hadn’t already been used. But Flash got decent service in the storyline, and his tan miscolouration in Issue #6 was too good to pass up, as a homage to the unreleased 15th anniversary version originally planned for 1997 (even if I did squeeze a regular Flash into Issue #22). For the HISS tank, while there wasn’t actually an incident in the first 20 issues where he appeared, my desire to ensure that all new molds were represented and the absence of a logical choice for pilot duties allowed me to bring him forward. I would imagine he would be very much in the unreleased Wal-Mart Rip-It vain anyway, to match the colour scheme of Cobra troops at the time (a scheme that goes nicely with the remote control tank drivers in Issue #28.)
Still it was hard. What does one do when character-driven issue like #20, without relying on something like the Arbco Security Guard? My efforts to make sure that Issue #19 had significant weight without repeating characters like General Flagg meant that Scarface (originally scheduled for #13) was replaced by Richter the Mercenary, and Major Bludd (originally scheduled for #17) was replaced with a Cobra Pilot. Anyway, a list of the first 24 issues is complete.
Having skimmed ahead, combined with Hasbro’s later issue releases, makes me think continuing this exercise is going to be even more difficult. So this may be it, we’ll see. But it’s a start for now.
(Thanks to yojoe.com for the use of the Flash picture.)