First and foremost, a huge thanks to Russ Sheath who had the opportunity to attend MCM (London ComicCon) and check out the latest Hasbro news and intel live and in person. Russ kindly volunteered to get some face time with Emily and provide GeneralsJoes the unique opportunity to post that interview for the G.I. Joe audience!
Russ Sheath here reporting for Generals Joes, where I ventured to London for MCM-CON and the opportunity to sit down with the one and only Emily Bader, Hasbro’s Brand Manager for, amongst other things, GI JOE.
You will know Emily from Hasbro Pulse Con, numerous live streams. and as the face for all things GI JOE, coming from Hasbro.
Along with lead designer Lenny Panzika, Emily brings us the news and reveals for the entire GI JOE line. At MCM-CON’s Hasbro panel Emily has revealed that the UK’s own ‘Big Ben’ will be joining the Classified line and showed digital renderings of what the figure will look like. Emily also shared the first images of the previously revealed ‘Female Cobra Trooper 2 Pack’…and in a reveal that kept the JOE fans in the audience guessing….Emily teased something called… ‘Mole Rats’. Another name-only reveal was Shadow Tracker, the legendary COBRA hunter from the Pursuit of COBRA line, a potentially amazing addition to the Classified roster!
Fighting jet lag like a trooper, Emily took the time to sit down with Generals Joes to offer insights into the past, present and future of GI JOE Classified.
Russ Sheath (RS): I thought we’d start with a ‘state of the union’ official line from Hasbro. How’s the GI JOE brand doing?
Emily Bader (EB): From an official Hasbro perspective we are doing great. I really don’t think that anyone anticipated what the Classified series had the potential to become when it launched, back when we were were originally bringing GI JOE back to support the Snake Eyes movie. Classified has grown so far beyond that at this point. It helped that Classified is the first time that GI JOE has been available as a 6 inch line which gets people excited, but I’d say that the success of the Haslab HISS Tank is the embodiment of the state of GI JOE right now.
RS: I was excited to see the reveal of the female Cobra Trooper images at the GI JOE Classified panel today, which made me realise that GI JOE was pretty diverse as an 80s boys toys, in an era where there was maybe a single token female character in traditional ‘Boys toys’ lines. From a toy perspective the line has covered pretty much all of the female characters from the existing JOE catalogue of characters, how will you keep the line’s diversity moving forwards?
EB: When we sit down and plan the line for the year we look at what the gender and racial split is, we want to make sure everybody is being represented and can see themselves in GI JOE. Right now we are looking at what the era split is too, so how many 80s, 90s, or 2000s era characters we include in the line. So it’s really become a ‘beautiful mind’ exercise by Lenny and the team, which is really fun. One of the ways we will start sneaking more female characters into the line, is as we saw with the render reveal of the female cobra trooper two pack.
Cobra is an equal opportunities employer for the people they send into battle, so making sure we represent that is important to us. We are so lucky to be working on JOE and to be able to keep trying new things, the further the line goes the deeper dives we get to do. With the exception of the Snake Eyes movie line our figures aren’t screen accurate, they are an amalgamation of the different iterations that have been around for the last 30 or 40 years, and that’s one of the ways to make this a fun thing to do.
RS: Do you have more freedom with JOE than with other brands at Hasbro, perhaps to do things that’s are a bit out of left field?
EB: At Hasbro we have licensed brands such as Marvel, Star Wars etc. We then then have brands which we own and operate, such as GI JOE and Transformers. With Transformers there is so much entertainment that comes out and that we have to represent, but with GI JOE we get a lot more freedom to design the figures how we want and to say that we like different elements from Sunbow, from the Marvel comics, or from other different iterations, and combine them. We are in the process of working out the percentages of what can be kept retro for people to be happy, and then what needs to be upgraded to a modern interpretation so that it feels like a modern toy line while still having call backs to it roots. Those interpretations have been really helpful to us, as it allowed fans to say, for example, that the original Gung Ho camo pattern wasn’t working for them, so it allowed us to say that main line would become more of a modern era look, while the retro card back line would have more of an 80s accurate vibe. That has offered a nice distinction for us and has allowed Lenny to push the modern look a little bit further that he might have originally.
RS: One thing that interested me was the move away from the sci-fi orientated approach of the original releases from the Classified line and more towards a modern era look and feel. Can you talk to that? EB: It was an evolution of the brand. When you bring something back you never quite know where it’s going to go. Based on feedback the fans were excited, but it was a bit too much of a swing. Of the looks we had, we had retro, modern, and future, fans wanted us to pull things back from future to the retro and modern eras. Over the course of the line it’s all an evolution and it will continue to evolve and to be exciting. RS: We know the GI JOE comic book is no longer with IDW and there are plenty of rumours about where the comic might end up, with one being Robert Kirkman’s ‘Skybound’ entertainment at Image Comics, the home of The Walking Dead. Can you tell us whether a change of comic publisher might influence anything to do with the toy line?
EB: Hasbro PR Says I can’t comment, but I would be really excited to do that. We haven’t been part of those conversations, but I think that with any new iterations of things there is amazing potential.
RS: Let’s talk about the HISS Tank. I got the impression that the success of the project that the was a to everyone, not least Hasbro?
EB: We knew that the Haslab HISS Tank was going to do well and that it was the right choice to start Classified in Haslab, we knew that people would love it. What we didn’t anticipate was that it would be the fasted Haslab project ever, funding in 8 hours and 41 minutes. That caught us all off guard, especially as it was a different kind of offering for JOE fans. We knew there was an interest in vehicles but we didn’t know how far to push it, for example would the electronics or the characters be too much? We didn’t know how people feel about the offering in general. What we found was everybody really liked it and It’s been so nice to work on the project, and especially to have the fan sentiment. With the Haslab Skystriker we were getting feedback from fans saying ‘I don’t need this, I already have the one from 1983, and I have the figures. I am backing the Skystriker to show Hasbro that there is interest in GI JOE, we want you to evolve the brand, and that the thinking is that if I back the Skystriker it will get me a Classified Series Haslab in the future’. That worked and upper Hasbro saw that the Skystriker campaign did great, so let’s run another one for Classified. It’s an honour to have the fasting funding Haslab in GI JOE, especially given how many amazing Haslabs there have been, and how wonderfully they have been run.
RS: Does this mean we might see more Classified Haslab projects down the line?
EB: I feel that there is a relatively strong degree of confidence about that.
Again, huge thanks to Russ for giving me the privilege of posting this fantastic interview. An equally big thanks to Emily for her time and the honest transparency of her responses– always great to hear directly from the Hasbro team! Check out the gallery below of some of the images captured from the convention floor and of the panel recap itself.
I must say when I received this shipping notice last week it was the most pleasant of surprises! Seems like more often than not, the one place I pre-order from is typically the last place that actually sees stock arrive, but in this case, I guess I chose right!
Big Bad Toy Store came through with the early drop and I couldn’t be happier. Seems only appropriate I received them just as I was getting ready to write a review of Tomax and Xamot.
I will admit, I wasn’t quite sure how to handle this review at first, not wanting to be too repetitive as I ran down the pluses and minuses of each figure. So instead, I combined them into a single review, trying to showcase the various similarities, differences and the value of buying the twins in two separate packages versus a single two-pack.
Now, for as much as I generally push back against the strict adherence to vintage look and feel, I will admit — I got a little giddy having these figures in hand, what with the twins being some of my favorite characters and figures within the Real American Hero mythology.
So, here it is — this is the figure you have to blame for suffering through a week of new GeneralsJoes reviews. While I’d been stacking up my new Classified figures over the period of a few weeks, I hadn’t buckled down and actually done any reviews yet– then I got the shipping notice from BBTS for my four Crimson Guards and knew it was time to get off the pot. After all, the “Siegies” are one of my all time favorite elements of the Real American Hero mythology and by all accounts, Hasbro did a spectacular job updating them for the G.I. Joe: Classified line.
The Crimson Guard are one of those characters who really came to life throughout Larry Hama’s original run of the Marvel Comics, evolving far beyond the “COBRA troopers, but in red” sense that you sometimes got in the Sunbow series. I think as time went on, the animated continuity did make some efforts to differentiate them (ironically, it seemed to be the DIC series that really went the next step in their separation, with Scoop’s role as a Crimson Guard). Throughout Marvel, you had the Fred’s making frequent appearances, with one of Snake Eyes and Stalker’s Vietnam buddies Wade Collins even falling into their ranks. Looking back at some of those runs, it’s pretty amazing how they shaped the G.I. Joe universe as we know it. Hell, one of them even donned COBRA Commander’s battle armor and took over for a time.
Though it’s interesting — while folks will immediately see the vintage inspiration in these figures, I find it necessary to point out that these Crimson Guards are not in fact quite as strictly based on the 1985 original. Instead, they seem to pull from a few different more modern iterations of the Crimson Guard. And yes, while the 25th Anniversary and more modern versions are, in their own way, faithful to the ’85 originals, there are some key differences and the Classified version seems to prefer the 25th Anniversary look and feel over the ’85 one, mostly in their choice of color scheme.
Upon first glance, it would be easy to simply say Hasbro copied the original Crimson Guard’s aesthetic for their six inch update, but in fact, that’s not entirely true. While the overall look is remarkably similar there the paint deco is much more evocative of the 25th Anniversary version of the character than the ’85 vintage.
Where the original 1985 Crimson Guard was a vibrant shade of red, most future iterations leaned more darker and matte versions of the color. I understand why, but part of me really latches onto that original brightness and wishes we could see that translated to the Classified scale. The 25th Anniversary also went with the matte red over glossy, which is one reason why I label that as more of an inspiration than the ’85 original.
The sculpting on this figure is absolutely first-rate. The various textures throughout the torso, arms and legs really accentuate a feeling of multiple layers of real material in a way you just can’t capture at the smaller scale. I love that the buttons on his tunic are all raised, as are the ribbons and medals, making it clear that this is a unique figure, apart from the rest of the COBRA cadre.
When G.I. Joe: Classified first launched, I think there was a suspicion that they would heavily leverage existing tooling for updated figures, and while that’s certainly happened throughout the line, I’ve been totally thrilled with just how much new tooling they’ve used as well. I think a lot of fans suspected that the Crimson Guard might share significant re-use with COBRA Commander, but that’s simply not the case, a large amount of this figure uniquely sculpted and designed just for it (and its eventual Python Patrol repaint, among others). That helps make each of these characters really stand alone.
I also love their use of secondaries on this figure, the shoulder braid firmly attached, yet also separate, adding a key third dimension to the figure. The dual-strap belt, holster and sheath also give him some added realism. It’s the small touches, too– the helmet is a fantastic representation of the elite trooper’s look and those sleeves angle just over the back of the hands in the best way possible. Also, the figure just feels– bulky. His shoulders seem a bit broader than some others, the buck a little more solid. Just looking at the figure seems intimidating in only the best way.
Everything about this figure seems to have been designed and executed as a perfect representation of COBRA’s elite guard.
Absolutely spot-on. Because he lacks any sort of cumbersome belt or vest, the figure moves flawlessly throughout his torso range of motion. His double jointed elbows provide a wealth of options from standing at rigid parade rest to holding his various weapons in all sorts of great poses.
While the Crimson Guard look ceremonial, I still consider them some of the most highly trained combatants COBRA has, so it’s terrific that this six inch update can achieve so many great poses offering playability and poseability for almost any situation. I can’t wait until more people get these in hand and we see what some of the Instagram wizards can do with them!
Hasbro didn’t just hit a home run with this one, they hit a bases-loaded, bottom of the night game-winning grand slam. Every decision they made from an accessory perspective was exactly the right one they needed to make.
The Crimson Guard comes with his instantly recognizable rifle/bayonet combo complete with a removable magazine. Where we’ve had some challenges in past figures with the magazines staying in place, the design for the CG’s mag is perfect. It easily slips from its spot, but then equally easily slides back in and locks tight without risk of falling out and getting lost.
He has a great, realistic pistol and knife, a backpack, and a ceremonial sword and sheath. Here’s where some of the similarities between this figure and the 25th Anniversary version shine through again. In 1985, the Crimson Guard only game with his backpack and rifle, it wasn’t until some of the more modern updates where Hasbro thought to include the ceremonial sword (which looks fantastic, by the way) and the Classified update takes its inspiration from that decision. I’m glad they did.
As we’ve come to expect from Classified figures, there is a place on the figure for everything and even multiple places. The sword’s scabbard can fit either in a hole on the CG’s belt or on his backpack. The rifle can fit in a peg on the opposite side of the backpack along with the knife in its sheath and the pistol in its holster. He truly can hold everything.
If I have any questions it might be the choice of black for the backpack (the Crimson Guard has historically had a red backpack) and while the backpack is certainly a critical aspect of the character, the lack of clear shoulder straps that might hold the backpack on make it seem as though it’s sort of floating back there. Granted, that’s been an issue since day one, but it seems more obvious with the larger scaled figures.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad they didn’t ruin the aesthetic of the CG’s unique tunic with straps, but it’s just something I felt I had to point out.
What else is there to say about this figure? From head to toe, it hits all the exact right marks. Although they lean heavily into the vintage look, I absolutely love the look of the vintage CG and find few reasons to complain about that. The sculpt is terrific with a great, unique helmet, the layered texture throughout the body, not to mention the raised elements on his torso.
The color balance is a thing of beauty as well, the red, black and silver all playing great off each other.
Honestly, I’m finding it very difficult to think of anything to complain about here. If this is a sign of things to come for the Classified line, we are in for one heck of a treat.
G.I. Joe Classified Crimson Guard
I so wanted to give this figure a full five stars, though I had to drop just a bit for originality, considering it’s leveraging a nearly 40 year old design. Even so it’s doing it exceptionally well and the execution is about as great as one could ask for. Nailed it.
– Perfect compliment of nearly flawless accessories
– Great, solid, bulky figure with fantastic range of motion
– A beloved backbone of the COBRA organization!
– Would have been cool to be a little bit brighter shade of red.
Seems these days it’s almost impossible to tell what the release cadence of G.I. Joe: Classified figures are. While Stalker and the Crimson Twins aren’t due for domestic release for some time yet, I was able to get a hook up from a friend who got their hands on them early, then promptly canceled my outstanding pre-orders. The global supply chain has thrown things in a bit of an upheaval, but in spite of that I’ve seen a relatively consistent stream of Classified releases in 2022, especially over the past month or two.
By all accounts, things are just going to pick up, so hopefully you’re all glued to Hasbro PulseCon in October to see what the fine folks with the G.I. Joe team have up their sleeves.
Meanwhile, here’s a look at the simple, yet spectacular Stalker from the ninth wave (at least I think it’s the ninth wave) of G.I. Joe: Classified. Check out the review at the G.I. Joe: Classified Review Page or linked directly below.