So I hesitate to call this a review, even though it kinda/sorta is a review. Recently I got my hands on the first four G.I. Joe: Classified Retro figures released as Wal-Mart exclusives. Beyond the mangled card backs, the figures have their own pluses and minuses, some, obviously with more pluses than others.
So while I didn’t do a full-blown review breakdown of each figure, I did post a single look at the four different figures, outlining their good points and bad points with a ton of images.
Let me get this right out of the way up front — when Hasbro first announced they were doing a Wal-Mart exclusive G.I. Joe: Classified “Retro” line, my first response was — why? I mean, after all, the standard releases had been trending very close to Retro already. What was the point?
When we saw the first figure — a carded Baroness, I doubled down on my reaction. While the oversized card was an interesting trinket, the placement of the bubble and the somewhat dull positioning of the figure (empty space and all) didn’t really make it at all appealing. Now, to be fair– the Baroness was a sensible choice, after all, she’d only been available in an expensive Target exclusive pack alongside the COBRA Coil motorcycle, so at least at Wal-Mart someone could drop $20 for just the figure.
In my mind, the extra items in the Target version made it worthwhile, but– I digress.
So, I guess the real question is– if I was so lukewarm on this idea, how the hell did I end up with all four figures?
Because Hasbro managed to weave some interesting design elements into them that made them worth my money? Yes.
Because I’m a G.I. Joe sheep who just might very well buy almost any action figure with the G.I. Joe logo on it? Also yes.
To be fair, Hasbro did manage to do some interesting things, especially with Lady Jaye and Gung Ho, so I bought those two readily and eagerly. Then I received a free Baroness inside a Hasbro Fan Box — and my obsessive nature compelled me to at least purchase that final figure I was missing. Thus, I ended up with the whole damn set.
I suppose the answer is– do I regret my choice? Hmmmm… yes and no.
From my perspective, both Destro and The Baroness are objectively worse than their standard retail versions, so in those cases, yes I have some buyer’s remorse (though really only for Destro, since I got Baroness for free). The removal of some of the gray trim from the Baroness, the lackluster weapons and the removal of her knife sheath are all big points against the Retro version of COBRA’s female intelligence operative. I do like the stand she comes with, but that’s about the only improvement.
Destro is a little bit better with the black, animation specific eyebrows over his eyes and a somewhat eye-catching silver on his gloves, but by and large, I much prefer the color breaks of the retail version of this figure as well. I think “regret” or “remorse” might be a strong word, but suffice it to say, the Retro Baroness and Destro will not be the ones that I stand up in my display.
Animation accurate or not– new stands or not– I just prefer the way the original releases look and will be sticking with those. I can kinda understand why Hasbro chose these two characters (especially with the Baroness’ availability and price point) I’m just not sure I needed them in my collection.
I will say, however, things get a lot more interesting when you start talking about Lady Jaye and Gung Ho. Especially Gung Ho.
Let’s take a look at Lady Jaye first — while Destro and The Baroness seemed to just sort of commit to whatever they were trying to achieve, Lady Jaye went all in on the homages to the original 1985 action figure. The lime green uniform, the lack of the hair to replace her hat, the NEWLY TOOLED OLD SCHOOL CAMCORDER not to mention her backpack. Yeah, whatever corners Hasbro cut they built back up.
As much as I’d prefer if Hasbro try new concepts and new ideas it’s tough to argue that having a 6″ update to the ’85 figure doesn’t have at least a little bit of a “cool factor”.
Now, taking nostalgia out of the picture entirely, I think I prefer the original release. I’d much rather have the swappable hair/hat combo, the more modern backpack-mounted camera and the slightly more toned down, realistic colors. I will say the execution on the face painting on the Retro Lady Jaye is great improved, however.
This brings us to Gung Ho. Far and away the shining star of the Retro series thus far, Hasbro threw everything they had at this Gung Ho update and stuck the landing.
Personally, I really liked the original Gung Ho release– it was during a short window of time where Hasbro was trying some new things, not beholden to vintage ideals, and I kind of liked that approach. It meant each new figure had a potential to bring something legitimately new to the table, rather than everything being, more or less, pre-ordained. Sure, Gung Ho came with some clunky weapons and his hat wasn’t 100% adherent to the Marine Corps standards, but the darker colored uniform, the modernized vest– the slightly retooled facial features. It all worked really well for me, though I acknowledge others weren’t wild about it.
For the Retro version, Hasbro leaned whole hog into that old school 1983 powder blue aesthetic.
And, you know, as much as I say I love the modern and scoff at the vintage accuracy of some of these figures– tough for me to say that the Retro Gung Ho isn’t pretty cool. Yeah his colors are bright and somewhat unrealistic, yeah, there isn’t quite as much originality at play. But the figure works.
Hasbro clearly invested a ton of new tooling dollars into the figure, giving him a new head, new hat, new backpack, new vest, new grenade launcher, new holster and grenade pouch. The entire figure could have easily sold in a box at MSRP rather than the Wal-Mart Retro line and I suspect almost any Classified fan would have paid up. It is, more or less, similar to Heavy Artillery Roadblock, a vintage looking figure etched in 6″ scale with a modern aesthetic.
What started as mostly a curiosity for me has somewhat surprised me. Initially I hadn’t really considered buying any of these, yet somehow I ended up with all four in my collection and while their usability might be in question, they remain fun additions to the Classified line.
Without a doubt, I would say anyone who owns the existing Baroness and Destro don’t need to bother adding those two Retro figures to their collection, however both Lady Jaye and Gung Ho have significant additions to their figures and are both worth at least considering, in my mind.
I suspect the majority of fans will eagerly acquire Gung Ho and to a lesser extent Lady Jaye, though they might very well (and rightly so) pass by Baroness and Destro.
I know this wasn’t a full-blown review, but in truth, the majority of these figures didn’t have enough changes to warrant a full individual review and rather than just focus a review on Gung Ho and/or Lady Jaye, I decided to write up a sort of “catch all” post covering the interesting and less interesting elements of these figures.
Although SDCC itself has been somewhat limited in recent years due to the COVID pandemic, it seems like an even longer time since ComicCon held any news of interest for G.I. Joe fans. Well, as the HasLab HISS Tank has dominated the news cycle and G.I. Joe: Classified continues to take the collecting world by storm, I suppose we should have known that would change in 2022.
But even if some of us suspected there’d be nuggets of news from San Diego, I’m not sure any of us were prepared for the sheer number of reveals of figures both in the design pipeline and nearing completion. The initial star of the show was, without a doubt, the HasLab HISS Tank, with a painted model front and center in the Hasbro G.I. Joe booth, drawing ooh’s and aah’s from several attendees.
As always, I have to give huge props to my buddy Chris at The Full Force who was right on top of every single nugget of news all weekend long. If you’re not following him on Facebook or YouTube, you’re missing out.
Most of the images you’ll see here come courtesy of HISSTank.com/ToyArk/TFW2005 who was there in force and took some of the best pictures of the show!
Emily and Lenny explained during the Hasbro panel that while the HISS Tank is not going to come with any blast effects, there will be blast effects elsewhere in the line and they will be 100% compatible with the tank.
As it stands, the HISSTank has well exceeded it’s funding goal and has moved past every stretch goal as well, surging toward a strong finish.
Along with a demo of the HISS Tank, Hasbro also announced two exciting pre-orders in the first days of SDCC. Dr. Mindbender and Sgt. Slaughter! While Sarge was available as a “fan channel” exclusive, meaning you could buy him online anywhere, Mindbender was a combined Hasbro Pulse/SDCC exclusive. Each morning, a limited allotment went up for pre-order. If you were at the show, you could grab a QR Code and use it to purchase the figure while a small amount of them were available for direct pre-order.
While this was all really exciting news, the fun stuff would happen on July 23rd, during the G.I. Joe panel. Anyone who has watched any of the Hasbro Pulse online events knows both Emily and Lenny, and as we’ve all come to expect, they brought some real energy to the gathering and revealed some fantastic stuff.
First, they started with a pair of “name only” reveals — Low Light and a COBRA Tele-Viper and Flight Pod. One would imagine that Low Light would be a close approximation of the ’86 version and will likely come with a sniper rifle. It would be really cool if, like the Pursuit of COBRA version, there was a case to go with it and the rifle could be disassembled to fit inside. I suppose time will tell.
After the name only reveals, Hasbro dropped the news about two more additions to their “Retro” series of Classified figures — Crimson Guard and Snake Eyes!
The Crimson Guard appears to have a brighter base red color and a more metallic looking face mask, and considering he’s an army builder, I think his addition really makes sense. As for Snake Eyes — well, he has a totally newly tooled head sculpt and a much more v1 accurate body design, so man– that one will also be very tough to turn away from!! Considering the current rumor is that Hasbro may finish the Retro line after these last two figures they went out on a high note!
Next, and perhaps the star of the show– Hasbro revealed the worst kept secret in G.I. Joe: Classified… the COBRA Emperor – SERPENTOR.
Thanks to some easter eggs on Mindbender’s art and some offhand comments from the design team during a few of the Pulse events, most fans knew this guy was coming– but it was a whole different thing seeing him in the “flesh” (or plastic, as the case may be). They revealed him during the panel, then had a test shot version of the figure (with his Air Chariot!) out on display.
It should be noted that Serpentor comes with two various hoods to mix and match for your favorite look.
Typically, during the Pulse online events, they’ll give us “pipeline” updates which reveals certain characters that are in the design stages, but not quite ready to show. Well, during the panel, they revealed a first look at digital sculpts for several of these figures, including Shipwreck, Torpedo, Rock n Roll and Copperhead! It should be noted these are very early images, but a fantastic look at some of the digital sculpts.
Of course, this wasn’t all of the G.I. Joe related news — there was Super 7’s excellent COBRA recruitment center and their pop-up store as well as the reveal of some great looking glow in the dark figures and the Marvel G.I. Joe #44 themed COBRA B.A.T. exclusive. Not to mention their display of G.I. Joe Ultimates wave 1, which is due to ship soon. SO MUCH G.I. Joe to soak in– it’s just incredible. As if all of this wasn’t enough — Mezco also revealed their upcoming Roadblock from their G.I. Joe licensed 1:12 line!
I have to say, it was almost overwhelming to see all of the news breaking loose over the weekend. I think we’d all assumed that a 6″ G.I. Joe line would do pretty well with collectors, but to see the absolute fever which has gripped G.I. Joe: Classified– it’s so fantastic to see.
The highlight of the weekend for me was probably the announcement of Low Light, even though we haven’t seen anything yet, just because he’s one of my all time favorite characters and I think is one of those figures that is ripe for a 6″ aesthetic overhaul. Even if Hasbro leans heavy on vintage (as we all know they will) there is still potential for some amazing things out of Low Light.
I really loved the Torpedo reveal as well — though seeing all the gear he comes with, I have no doubt he’ll be a “deluxe” figure at a higher price point, but likely worth every penny. He seems to be a great blend of vintage and modern, especially with the land-based SMG he comes packaged with. Rock n Roll is another fantastic addition, though I’ll admit, I was hoping he might come with a more current heavy machine gun instead of the old school M60. Though I’m certainly not a weapons aficionado, maybe that is a more current weapon that just resembles the old school classic. Someone educate me!
As for Serpentor — man he looks INSANE. I think I prefer the alternate hood to the vintage version, but the cape texture, the sculpted scales on the uniform and the sheer size of that air chariot– I cannot WAIT to get my hands on this one– though I haven’t quite figured out how and where I’ll display him. Between the air chariot, the HISS Tank and the upcoming Flight Pod(s)– my shelves are gonna be in trouble.
All in all, it was a great weekend. Huge thanks to the “boots on the ground” folks who kept those images coming– big thanks to Chris at The Full Force for the constant stream of updates. And of course, Emily, Lenny and the whole Hasbro crew for bringing some great stuff to share with a wider audience in San Diego. Feels like we’re in the middle of a wild ride, and take it from me — you don’t want to take this for granted!! Enjoy it! Soak it in! Things are good in G.I. Joe land.