Off The Shelf – 6” Joe
Normally I review toys I own for Off The Shelf, but last weekend was Toy Fair and I’m too excited about toys I will own to focus on all of the little plastic people I, y’know, already own and love.
About a year ago, I caught wind of a consensus among GI Joe collectors that a 6” line in the style of Marvel Legends or the Star Wars Black Series is what we wanted. I was surprised, but I haven’t been other than Sigma 6 in the early 2000s, I have only cherry picked items from the GI Joe reboots. I love the property, but there are only two toy aesthetics I’ve been all in on. This week’s reveal of the 6” GI Joe Classified Series bumps that up to three.
I am a fan of GI Joe as a military fantasy, and much prefer unique character designs and original concepts to military realism. I think GI Joe is best when it’s cool and intelligent, and a bit absurd, but the characters are in on the joke. Lines from the cartoon like:
COVER GIRL: Shipwreck’s lost in the mountains!
ALPINE: Of course. Where else would you expect to find a sailor in trouble?
ROADBLOCK: That worm’s got the squirm.
FLINT: I couldn’t have said it better myself.
ROADBLOCK: No one could.
Or possibly best of all:
SGT SLAUGHTER: They’re speaking ancient Greek.
LIFELINE: You speak ancient Greek?
SGT SLAUGHTER: I took an elective in college. What? Surprised I went to college‽
The two biggest achievements here are that these are good looking figures, and I instantly recognize the characters for who they’re supposed to be.
The packaging is great, although I prefer the Phil Noto artwork on Roadblock and Scarlett over the repurposed comic art on Duke. The Duke art stands out even more because it is the only one of the three in that style.
The design choice I find strangest is how future tech is integrated into the designs. All three characters have really hi-tech boots. Light, higher tech than their guns. The bold and intricate colours of their boots draws the eye straight down. I am fine with GI Joe looking like tomorrow’s military today, but the flow of the colours is strange.
Hey, a Duke that looks like Duke! Since his first release, Duke’s visual identity has been treated as the most mailable. He’s had brown hair, various haircuts, no trademark colour, no distinct silhouette, no specific skill, and his role on the team is either “main character” -whether that means he’s top ranked or bottom- or surprise death/traitor. He’s been included in every reboot, and is usually only recognizable as the most generic character in the lineup, intentionally.
This Duke uses the original figure’s beige and green colour scheme to effectively call back to the character’s most iconic look. The bandolier, backpack, and binoculars accessories complete the homage. And the boots… is “ruin” too strong a word?
Duke is the worst offender of the weird boot tech aesthetic. He has basically no armour except on his boots, and the blue highlights are almost nowhere else. They look robotic. Maybe they’re an homage to the terrible Accelerator Suits scene from Rise of Cobra, I don’t know. They’re bad enough that I’m eyeing Snake Eyes and wondering how easy it would be to swap shins. It would be the latest Duke reboot!
My favourite of the bunch. And not just because I named my daughter Scarlett. Over the years, Scarlett v1’s tan and grey combat bathing suit has evolved through interpretation into a stylized but practical martial arts armoured jumpsuit. It’s amazing how this figure doesn’t resemble any previous Scarlett figure side-by-side, and yet it is undeniably Scarlett.
Also, of the three characters with the tech boot issue, she is the only figure of the three with tech boots where I think the boots blend in. It’s all about triangulation of the yellow and gold.
She loses out a bit in the accessories department. She has her crossbow, which she absolutely needs, and then three knives. At least two of them sheath into her bandolier, I’m not sure if her third has a sheath as well or if she’s meant to hold it. It’s too bad she doesn’t have shuriken or a pistol, both as throwbacks to the weapons moulded to her original figure’s gloves and as a reference to the shocking moment in the back-up story of GI Joe #1 where she and Snake Eyes are pinned down and Scarlett says “I have a pistol on me with two bullets, if it comes to that.” In a comic based on a toy line aimed at children!
If you ever wondered how adults can still be into a kid’s comic forty years later, “we might have to kill ourselves to avoid capture, my fellow action figure friend” is part of it.
One of the best and most memorable characters in a franchise of, like, 1000, this Roadblock pays heavy homage to v2 with his lime vest. It looks removable so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a camo tank top underneath as homage to v1 as well.
I love how big and bulky this figure is. Roadblock’s a beast of a man with a soft side, whether he’s rhyming or not. The way the figure’s left leg and hand are obscured by the packaging art emphasizes the size of it.
I’m not a fan of his gun, unfortunately. I don’t need Roadblock to carry a machine gun, just something big bulky. A gun that I believe only Roadblock could wield. Because of the taser barrels at the end of this weapon, I don’t get the impression its recoil would knock over a lesser soldiers, or its mass is insurmountable. And because this is a new line in a new scale, I can’t just find a substitute that I think is more appropriate. If it really bugs me, I’ll have to find a Marvel Legends resource and see what big guns I could use instead.
A few colours rubbed me the wrong way when I first saw this figure, but they’re grown on me. I think one issue was that the original Roadblock with that vest had white short sleeves and light grey pants. I’m not used to that vest with dark colours. The other issue is, of course, the boots, especially because they look like Stark Tech. But the more I look at the figure, the less they both me.
Snake Eyes is a bit of an anomaly of the figures revealed so far. He’s a special edition, and exclusive to Hasbro Pulse. He comes in a sleeved, black and white, oversized package to accommodate a variety of ninja weapons and dojo diorama pieces.
Unlike the other figures, there’s nothing hi-tech about Snake Eyes. He’s the most direct adaptation of his classic look, and looks like a real world ninja commando. It’s an excellent adaptation, focusing on the elements that make v2 the most popular version of the figure in the original line but without carrying over the odder choices that made Snake Eyes in Rise of Cobra look stiff and silly. He’s only missing the Cuma Tak-Ri that Robert Atkins made his trademark offhand weapon in the IDW comics.
I suspect this Hasbro Pulse exclusive version of Snake Eyes is made of pieces we’ll see in the mainline release, with the tech pieces replaced by generic parts that can be farmed for future characters. Likewise, a lot of the martial arts weapons will show up with Storm Shadow, probably Jinx, and dare I dream even a Kamakura?