G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary Scarlett
Early Samples

As I sat back a few months ago and read Hasbro’s Press Release about a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of G.I. Joe, one thing immediately came to mind:  Damn, I’m old.

Yes, yes you are.  Of course, I’m older.  Damn, now I feel old.

I’ve been collecting these little four inch pieces of plastic for the entire time they’ve been on store shelves, and doing these reviews for the past seven years of that time, and I’ve seen a lot of fans asking a lot of things, some reasonable, some unreasonable, and ultimately a lot of them have been disappointed with what they’ve been getting from Hasbro up until now.  As most of you will acknowledge, I’m not one of those people.  By and large I love a lot of what Hasbro puts out under the G.I. Joe logo…does that make me a shill or a sheep, or something worse?  I don’t know, I just tell it like I see it.

One thing that a lot of fans have been asking for (though it’s something that I’ve never been real wild about) is modernized renditions of classic characters who look exactly like they looked back in the day.  Personally, I have such a fondness for the vintage sculpts, that I don’t see much need to revisit the past, but you cannot argue that the techniques for construction and articulation are simply in a different world these days.  Is it better?  That can’t really be said.  Personally, I have such a love for the vintage sculpt stuff that I don’t want to compare that to the Anniversary stuff because it’s simply apples and oranges.  These Anniversary figures are meant to celebrate the essence of the characters of A Real American Hero, and it seems to me that they’re not meant to take the place of the vintage stuff (and they shouldn’t try).  The vintage RAH stuff is terrific, and I wish that there were a way to get more of that stuff in stores, but if we can’t have that, the 25th stuff makes a pretty cool substitute.

From a conceptual standpoint I didn’t think I’d be wild about this stuff at first.  I already have these characters in these uniforms…I’m much more about new concepts, new ideas, and new characters.  But I can’t argue that Hasbro is doing a lot of things right with this line, and these characters are truly taking their defining characteristics and releasing some great looking modern figures that retain the classic style that immediately identifies these special forces troopers.

What are your thoughts on the 25th Anniversary, Fred?  I know you’re not quite such a huge devout fan of the classic sculpt stuff, so what do these new figures mean to you?

I’ve got to concur with Justin pretty much all of the points he put forward.  While I love my RAH figures and pretty much regard them as something that you’d have to pry from my cold dead hands (rigor mortis and all), I’m a huge fan of the newer sculpt figures of the GvC line.  To me, they are prime examples of just how far the toy industry has come since 1982 in terms of sculpting and design.  While I’ve enjoyed the TRU RAH reissue products, nothing has had the power to reduce me to a gibbering fan boy like new sculpt product.  It’s demonstrative that the GIJoe isn’t stagnant—that is continues to grow and evolve over time.  Yet oddly enough, aside from the ill-fated t-crotch experiment at the beginning of GvC, Hasbro really hasn’t changed the construction of the figures much since the introduction of swivel-arm battle grip and ball-jointed necks back in the mid-80’s.  As such, I have to admit that I was intrigued by the possibility of the 25th Anniversary line taking the world of “A Real American Hero” forward into the 21st Century sans the signature o-ring.  If Hasbro could recreate and even surpass the same range of motion of the original figures in a more cost-effective manner, I was all for it.  So, when the opportunity arose to take an early look at one of the figures from the line, just like Justin, I jumped at the chance.

From a figure standpoint, Scarlett looks pretty cool.  Her head sculpt does have sort of an animated style to it which I’m not quite sold on yet.  The facial features manage to be rounded and cartoony and jagged and angular both at the same time.  I like the sculpting in the hair, and overall, Scarlett looks nice.  I’m not sure it suits the past realistic nature of the toyline, but from it’s own standpoint, the animated features do work.

From a design standpoint, Scarlett has all of the qualities you’d expect.  A sleek, refined sculpt with the bodysuit, shoulderpad, long gloves and high-heeled boots.  All of the trimming that Scarlett has been known for over the past twenty-five years.  Each facet of her uniform has been sculpted very well, and even on a design that’s two and a half decades old, it still holds true today.  I don’t know if that should be attributed to current Hasbro staff or the guys who originally designed this stuff so many years ago, but regardless, it transcends time and looks great.  The lines, wrinkles, and curves are all sculpted very well, and she manages to look animated, but still enough “real world” to fit in the typical G.I. Joe mythos.

One interesting note, at least with my Scarlett...is the pouches on her boots are on the wrong side. This is obviously an issue due to the pre-production nature of my piece (and you'll notice Fred's boots are fine) so don't think that's going to be the standard going forward.

What do you think of the uniform sculpting overall, Fred?

It’s hard to argue with the fact that Hasbro pretty much nailed the classic Scarlett look with this figure.  (Okay, almost—but more on that in a moment.)  The tan unitard over the blue gray body suit, the padded red panel on the shoulder, the 60’s-esque high heeled boots—all of the defining characteristics of the original Scarlett character design are present in this small piece of plastic.  The head sculpt is decidedly animated in nature but I’m under the impression that this line is dedicated to the “definitive” versions of the various characters and Shana O’Hara made a lasting impression on a generation of 80’s cartoon viewers.  Unfortunately, with only one figure to examine I can’t speak for how she’ll blend in with the rest of the line but I’ve got ZERO issues with Scarlett taking on a more cartoon-based aspect.  In fact, I’m going to state that this is the best Scarlett head sculpt that Hasbro has produced since the line was relaunched.  This version is decidedly feminine and yet carries a look of cool intelligence, which is how I’ve always seen the Joe team’s deadly red head.  Previous sculpts have either been too young, too old, or too distant in appearance, but this head sculpt nails what I think of when someone mentions Scarlett. 

As Justin said early, nearly every aspect of the original character design has been faithfully reproduced in a new-sculpt form.  Now, this is where my minor nitpicks come in—and that is that Scarlett is actually missing a few small details that I’d always enjoyed about the original figure.  One of my favorite aspects of the original Scarlett figure was the amount of weaponry that was incorporated into her design.  I’m not talking about her crossbow but rather all of the various implements of death and destruction that were sculpted onto her combat uniform.  Scarlett carried a derringer (inside right glove), a grenade (left shoulder), two shuriken (outside left glove), explosives with detonator (right thigh), a sling shot (posterior), and a small knife (left thigh)—making her someone who was prepared for any eventuality.  This new version only has half of the molded detail—the grenade, shuriken, and knife are all still present.  Now, this is a minor nitpick but I miss seeing the other “tools of her trade” incorporated into the design.  Still, if this is all I’ve got to complain about then this is one solid character design that is sure to please most Joe fans.

How about the articulation?  Ever since the beginning of the line, G.I. Joe has been known for it’s articulation…it’s a critical component of what makes it a great toyline.  The 25th stuff is a bit mixed in that department, but it hits a lot more than it misses.

First of all, the shoulder joints, elbows, and forearm articulation are all very nice, very tight, and very well done.  The elbows aren’t double jointed or anything, but she is able to hold several good poses and the way her arms rotate allows for lots of flexibility holding her weapons.  I’m a little mixed on her hand positioning, though.  I love the fact that she can hold her crossbow as perfectly as she does…but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit bothered by how contorted her fingers are, and by how much it limits what you can do with them.

Back to articulation…her torso joint works well and adds a nice level of articulation, simulating the o-ring torso joint better than I thought it might.  It’s a lot different than that vintage style, bending the torso much higher in the body, but it still works relatively well.  Where I run into some problems are in the hips.  As folks have mentioned in the past, these new Joes have totally revamped waist/crotch pieces, and while their hips still retain the great flexibility on the internal T-Hook, the design of the waist limits how the legs move front-to-back a bit more than I’d prefer.  I kind of wish there had been a way to more simulate the classic waist piece, but I could see how it might limit some articulation when you’re not using the o-ring construction.  I’m still hoping some of the other figures won’t be quite as limited as Scarlett, and really, with some creative positioning, you can sort of get around the limitation, but in the end you get a figure that doesn’t sit down quite right.  From the waist up, however, Scarlett is simply fantastic and the sheer number of poses she can maintain is amazing. Still you cannot argue with the fact that there are pretty specific limitations to the leg movement, which is unfortunate, and it's something I hope isn't as drastic with the male figures of the line. I'm not really sure why they didn't engineer a hip joint more in line with the vintage stuff (with larger socket cavities allowing for more range of motion) other than perhaps it was an asthetic choice. If it was asthetic, and not functional, I'm a bit concerned since I really don't like articulation being sacrificed for look. That's just a personal preference, but I think it lines up with what a lot of other Joe fans think.

Besides that gripe, Hasbro has been able to work in a ton of articulation with this figure, fairly closely approximating the Microman style that a lot of Joe collectors love.  There are some points that could use some work, but ultimately, it’s relatively successful.

Scarlett, due to her slender torso can even maintain an accurate two-handed shooter’s stance, which is something that pretty much no other Joe figure that I’ve seen is able to do…it’s a great little touch of realism.  Most important of all, the joints are stiff and sturdy.  Nothing loose and floppy, and the articulation here is worlds better than stuff seen in lines like Super Hero Showdown.  The plastic overall is the familiar ABS plastic that we’ve seen recently, which is somewhat flexible, but not too much so.  I will say that spending an hour or two out in the sun taking some of the pictures left some limbs a bit soft, but they still feel tough, resistant and playable.

Fred, your thoughts in the articulation?

I’m an articulation junkie—which is what drew me away from Star Wars and toward GIJoe as a child.  It’s also what led me to the Marvel Legends line in later years.  I like my figures to be “action figures”—poseable representations of favorite characters.  The more useful articulation in a figure, the more I find that I’m predisposed to like it.  From the waist up, Scarlett gets some pretty decent marks in the articulation department.  The “new elbows” that debuted back in Valor vs. Venom are still present as are the standard ball-jointed shoulders.  Scarlett’s gloves swivel which opens up a whole new range of options in terms of poses she can hold.  The ball-jointed neck works okay but doesn’t really offer anything too ground-breaking in terms of movement.  Unlike Justin, I’m a bit ambivalent when it comes to the new torso joint.  Perhaps it’s the placement in the torso that throws it off but I don’t see a huge advantage.  Scarlett can now droop forward a bit but that’s about it.  It does, however, alleviate some of the problem found in the waist articulation.  Without this torso joint, Shana O’Hara wouldn’t be able to sit down with any degree of believability.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you’re going to change a proven design, make certain that the new design at least works as well as its predecessor.  I’ll be blunt—the new waist is everything that fans feared it might be when pictures of the anniversary figures first appeared.  A standing classic RAH-era or GvC-era Joe can typically raise their leg up to their waist, parallel to the floor.  The new 25th Scarlett isn’t so limber and can only manage to raise her leg as high as her own knee.  The result of this of restriction in range of motion is that Scarlett is incapable of sitting up in seated position.  She can slouch (with the help of her new mid-torso joint) like a college student in a particularly monotonous 8am lecture, but there is no way she’s going to sit up straight.  This means that Scarlett doesn’t work well with classic RAH-era vehicles like the RAM or even the seats in the 1983 Headquarters.  She can sit down alright but she’s got nowhere near the range of motion of the figures that have come before her and that, to me, is a real failure in design.  She also cannot sit with her knees together as the new waist piece is simply too thick in the crotch to allow for a formal sitting position.  Apparently Shana skipped charm school because when she’s seated, she’s one of the guys.  (Essentially, she’s got a “v-crotch”.)  I don’t know how this oversight was allowed to get as far as it has in the design process as it seems that no one really sat down and tested the full range of motion on the figure before putting them into production.  Sure, I love the fact that she can hold many a weapon in a proper two-handed grip but I’m not crazy about the fact that I have to really work to get her into many of my classic vehicles.  A great many people have compared this line to the Microman line from Japan and while there are some similarities, it’s not even close to the range of motion achieved both those figures.  I can only hope that Hasbro learns from the first few waves of this line and at least restores the range of motion found in the previous incarnations of GIJoe: A Real American Hero.  Okay, rant over.  Back to you, Justin.

I know ever since the article in Lee’s came out a number of months ago, there have been concerns about scale for these figures as well.  It’s been reported that the scale would be anywhere from four inches to 4.5 inches and everything in between.  Well, that’s partly correct.  Scarlett herself is supposed to be one of the shorter of the figures and she still stands in there a bit taller than most Real American Hero figures, but still right in line with the new sculpt stuff. It’s not like the Anniversary stuff blends in well style-wise with the classic stuff, so I’m not sure why a lot of folks are bent up about the scale, especially considering the bulk of the new sculpt stuff was closer to 4” than 3.75” anyway.  To those who are concerned, though, at least in Scarlett’s case, scale I think will work fine in displays or collections, as long as you’re not standing everyone stock straight next to each other.  Just with a cursory glance, you really can’t tell there’s much size difference at all, so those folks who are determined to use these with their classic figures should be able to.

I’m actually going to have to disagree with Justin on this last point.  At first I thought that Scarlett was pretty close to the GvC era 3.75” figures in terms of size.  Instead, she’s more solidly in the camp of the 4” figures that have been released in the line.  When placed side-by-side with the Spy Troops Shipwreck, she’s staring him down eye to eye; the same holds true for Major Barrage.  However, place her next to a classic 3.75” figure and you’ll see that she blends as well as the GvC wave 2 Scarlett.  She’s tall and, if this is obvious with Scarlett, it will only become more obvious with larger figures like Gung-Ho and Roadblock.  (I’m envisioning Roadblock towering over the line much like the DTC Major Bludd does over the VvV Baroness.)  I’m going to display this line separately from the rest of my Joe collection and I think that many collectors will end up doing the same. 

I think you bring up a good point, Fred...I see a lot of this Anniversary stuff being displayed separately, and I think it deserves it's own spot. Just from an asthetic standpoint she really doesn't look like she belongs in the same toyline, and the scale does kind of mix with that. Scarlett is larger than her RAH counterparts, and a number of the new sculpt ones as well. While this is only a minor problem with Scarlett, I can potentially see it becoming an issue once Destro and Roadblock come out, who are supposed to be noticably taller than Scarlett, and may in turn stand out amongst the older items even more.

As far as paint applications go, Scarlett is right in tune with the other versions of her, wearing the appropriate tan and blue/gray one-piece, and the color detailing throughout the rest of the figure is quite nice, too.

All told, this figure is a very cool addition to a new line of G.I. Joe figures.  The style of these really makes them stand apart from the vintage sculpt stuff, and they should probably be accepted and used separately from the other figures, simply by the way they look.  However, if you want to integrate them within your classic sculpt stuff for whatever reason, the scale is very good, and the figures themselves are very, very nicely done.  If the rest of the Anniversary line maintains the level of quality that Scarlett has, I think lots of folks will be very happy with what we’re getting for 2007 and 2008 (and hopefully beyond!).

The 25th Scarlett represents the beginning of something really exciting—the potential for a whole new era of GIJoe: A Real American Hero.  A new body construction, new sculpts, new classic packaging—of these aspects could prove to be the “shot in the arm” that many have felt the line needed.  While heavily tied to the past, this line has the potential to innovate in ways we haven’t previously seen.  However, this figure is a great example of a beginning and no true beginning is without a few missteps.  While the level of sculpting is really quite terrific, creating a figure that could have literally stepped right out of the classic card art of the 80’s, the restricted movement of the waist and hips leaves me a bit cold.  If this figure at least had the same range of motion of the original 1982 version, I’d proclaim this hands-down the best Scarlett figure ever produced by Hasbro.  However, I find myself stopping short of such a proclamation of greatness.  It’s as if Hasbro ran the Boston Marathon leading the pack and then decided that they were close enough at the 22.5 mile mark.  The inability to sit is the real issue for me—not the change in scale or any other such nonsense.  So, I’m hoping that Hasbro learns from this slight misstep at the beginning of the line and is able to unleash the true potential of this new o-ring-free body design.   Does this mean that I’ll pass on the 25th line? Not at all—I’ll still collect them and display them separately from the rest of the 3.75” collection.  It does mean, however, that Hasbro still has a ways to go before producing “The Ultimate” in GIJoe action figures.  However, if the past has shown us anything it’s that Hasbro does continue to innovate and change and hopefully the issues that I had with this figure will be resolved in future waves as I would love to see this line continue (lumps and all) well beyond 2008. 

Click the picture for the full size image