A small indulgence

Sure, times are tough, but I managed to put aside a double-sawbuck for something completely useless anyway. Hasbro was kind enough to create it specifically for me, so I figured I owed them the courtesy. I’m speaking, of course, of the G.I. Joe DVD Battle Pack set. Apparently there will be five of these, but this one, The M.A.S.S. Device. This is the one that matters.

Remember when figure sets used to come in compact blister packs or small boxes? Apparently no one buys those, or something, because now toys like this all seem to come in massive display-window boxes. Vehicles seem to be even worse, since they all apparently come completely pre-assembled now, with the stickers applied. That’s pretty much half the joy of buying a new toy down the drain, right there. And I feel like these jumbo boxes should be a wash in terms of profitability, since fewer of them can fit on a shelf at once than toys of years past, but what do I know? I’m not some faceless suit using science and spreadsheets to determine the most efficient means of wringing every last cent from America’s children, I’m just a dope with an overdeveloped nostalgia gland.

And man, does this thing stab at my nostalgia gland. With surgical efficiency, in fact.

The premise here, of course, is that Hasbro has effectively created miniature renditions of elements from the G.I. Joe cartoons that aired 25 years ago. I’d come home after school and watch these with utmost devotion, and somehow a team of sculptors has managed to fire a laser into my brain to stimulate those memories. I see this set and immediately have a vision of myself sitting in our living room in front of our huge new color TV (it was at least 17 inches, way bigger than the black and white set it replaced!) and wondering how Duke was going to avoid having his face punched in by the big dude in the loincloth. Later, I’d go outside and dutifully play with my friends, secretly feeling smug that the sole two G.I. Joe toys I had been able to afford to buy for myself just happened to be ones revealed to be completely awesome by the T.V. series: Destro and Snake-Eyes. Sure did suck for those guys who owned the boring greenshirt schmoes.

It’s really kind of insidious and alarms me. But, hey, what’s twenty bucks between friends? Or rather, between predator and prey.

The set comes with a slim-case DVD compiling the entire M.A.S.S. Device mini-series, which of course I will leave shrink-wrapped. This is not because I think the stand-alone DVD will ever have any value whatsoever, but rather because I realize that if I actually watch the cartoon, which is completely stupid and terrible for any sane adult, my nostalgia gland will wither and die forever. And then I’ll be out of a job.

The pièce de résistance is the Snake-Eyes figure. Despite the fact that roughly every third figure Hasbro makes is a Snake-Eyes and I already own, uh, one or two, this one is brilliant. It’s exactly the same mold as the other Snake-Eyes I have on my bookshelf, but recolored in a completely fantastic way to resemble fatal radiation poisoning. The orange bits are molded in clear plastic, too, so if you are insane or obsessive you can display him with light shining from behind to make him look radioactive. (Don’t worry, it’s nothing a nice warm herb bath won’t cure.) The attention to detail is admirable, though — they left his hands bare for this version, just like on the show. I never quite understood the logic behind that, but I won’t presume to criticize cel painters who were probably being paid pennies a day for their troubles.

To the right, G.I. Joe Theatre presents: “Ol’ Yeller.”

The set also comes with Stalker and The Baroness, which…OK, why not. Stalker looks like he’s the same as the one they released last year (which is actually just Snake-Eyes with a different head and web gear), except now he has a jet pack and an eye-searing color scheme intended to represent the gaudy primary tones of afternoon cartoon ink and paint, I suppose. As a nice touch, he and Snake-Eyes are both carrying what seem to be the generic laser rifles everyone on the show fired futilely at the bad guys. I don’t know my real-world guns, but I’m going to assume these aren’t based on anything any real army would ever use.

Baroness is more interesting, simply because this represents a very, very specific version of her from a single episode of the cartoon. But really, that’s what appeals to me most about this, I think. When I was a kid, because I was an anal-retentive nerd even at age 8, I was always irritated by the fact that the toys and the comics and the cartoon all existed in their own unique little worlds where nothing really coincided. Duke was always making out with Scarlett in the cartoon, but in the comics she had a depressing, dysfunctional relationship with Snake-Eyes instead. To say nothing of the characterizations — like, how Bazooka’s file card described him as a tactical genius and ballistics savant, while he was just some background nobody in the comic and couldn’t even form a coherent sentence in the cartoon. Actually, the cartoon was kind of depressing in that regard, since these guys were supposed to be the best of the best, and most of them were too stupid to tie their own shoes. This is America’s best and brightest! No wonder we’re so screwed.

Anyway, uh, they actually went to the trouble of giving Baroness thick black glasses behind her permanently-affixed scuba goggles. And upon closer inspection I think she’s actually just Scarlett, painted scarlet, with fins and a rebreather. Like the Native American’s bison-consumption philosophy, Hasbro lets no part of an existing mold go to waste, it seems.

I do like the attention to detail in the file cards, though. They actually went to the trouble of painting new renditions of Chernobyl Snake-Eyes and Undah Da Sea Baroness in the style of the old packaging art, which wasn’t used anywhere on the box but these tiny little 1×2-inch portraits.

And finally, the cherry on top: A Cobra Trooper pushing a hand-truck loaded up with magical catalytic elements for the M.A.S.S. Device, along with the device in question. And old-school blueprints, too! Complete with a touching letter from Destro to Cobra Commander.

Well, it’s not actually the whole device, but rather a single component thereof. It looks like there’ll be five of these DVD sets, each with a piece of the M.A.S.S. Device that can be assembled to create the whole thing. And just to be extra annoying, there are three little glass tubes that can be removed, and three figures (sold separately, of course) will come with elements that can be placed inside. Insidious!

It’s good news for me that they’re making a G.I. Joe movie, I guess. Once that hits, they’ll stop catering to nostalgia dopes like me and start pumping out toys based on the film, which will be much easier to resist. Who knew that a crappy licensed action flick could be such a blessing?

19 thoughts on “A small indulgence

  1. All the vehicles I’ve seen come pre-made in a display box with the stickers already attached. It’s heart-wrenchingly lame.

  2. Nice pickup, but forget the upcoming movie its the G.I. JOE Resolute minisodes I’ll be anticipating.

  3. Yeah, good move on leaving the DVD as-is. G.I. Joe, like nearly every other 80’s cartoon, has not aged well. The animation quality is abhorrent, the stories make little sense, and for a cartoon about war, there’s something palpably stupid about the fact that nobody ever shoots anybody. Not even in the foot.

  4. Like the Native American’s bison-consumption philosophy, Hasbro lets no part of an existing mold go to waste, it seems.

    Indeed! It’s always been that way, which is why almost all the pre-`82 reboot Joes even share the same head. But even I, a Toy Dork well used to their recoloring ways, am impressed by the amount of use they’re getting out of the Anniversary Cobra Trooper/Officer mold. I can’t count all the variations on this sucker and there’s more coming. (I wonder how long they can keep it up? Molds do degrade from prolonged use, after all…)

  5. I do so love those file cards. I diligently cut them out before I threw the away the cardboard backs. The display stands are a nice touch too. Be careful positioning them though. The bases on some of my older figures used to snap off after repeated replacements.

    That Baroness figure is pretty cool too. It would have been nice if the helmet and flippers were removable, but the Joe figures just don’t roll that way.

  6. I’m an avid collector of these new Joes, but I’m only marginally interested in these multi-packs.

    Which of the single-carded ones do you have? I’d be of the mind just to start a GI Joe thread…

  7. Well, to me that just means you’ve been lucky enough to find ones that aren’t the dozen Cobra Commanders that are always on the pegs of nearly every store I go to. I hate myself for only finding out (and subsequently caring) about the 25th line earlier this year!

  8. I just preorder from bigbadtoystore.com. I wouldn’t bother if I actually had to put any effort into it.

  9. Ah, well, I haven’t been discouraged enough to hit the instant win button. But time shall tell!

  10. Toy distribution has not changed at all over the years then. It always seems like the boxes that come to those places have one of most characters and a ridiculous amount of one or two figures. The old Toy Biz lines for Marvel’s various animated series had some great villain action figures, but they buried under all the horrible iterations of the main characters. I bought Samurai Iron Man just the same, but it would have been awesome if I could have him melee with Dreadknight.

  11. Along the same lines – does anyone know where I can get some Dragon Quest figures and whatnot without paying a ton of shipping? I always want stuff like this but don’t want to pay the overseas shipping…

  12. Do you mean the Dragon Quest VIII Play Arts, or just the DQ monster collections? The former I don’t think you can even buy anymore in Japan; the latter you might try someplace like NCSX.com or Play-Asia.com.

  13. Eh, I guess I’m just talking about the DQ monster collections. Play-Asia and NCSC seem to be perpetually sold out of the ones I want. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to keep checking good ol’ eBay.

  14. I actually sat through MASS Device a couple of weeks ago (thanks, Youtube!), and while it’s bad… there were dozens of far worse cartoons on in the 80s (remember, GI Joe wrested the throne away from He-Man, so everything – from the animation to scripting – was an enormous step up). Of course, the first three miniseries are pretty much identical in format – Cobra builds ultimate weapon, but circumstances require them to travel to all corners of the world to perform some tasks (preferably three, to fill the Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday stretch in orderly fashion, although Pyramids of Darkness screwed around with this a bit), Duke gets captured / taken out of the picture allowing the background characters to get face time and sell their toys, big climax to end it, Cobra commander gets captured (I know, not at the end of Pyramids of Darkness – that had to set up the show), end of story.

    But MASS device suffers from being forced into that initial 1983 team roster, which as noted was *incredibly* shallow outside Snake Eyes. Once they got the newer characters in there (the Flint / Lady Jaye toy year – 1985?) they didn’t have to lean on the Doc / Breaker / Steeler dull-as-dirt types to carry the show, and it helped a bunch.

    (Heck, they were able to eventually write some of the originals off in what was basically the biggest shock ending in a cartoon I’d experienced up until that point. Never got why they didn’t do a sequel to that one….)

    Plus, Duke is HORRIBLE as a lead character. They actually wrote Flint reasonably well – he was a rare cartoon character that came off much better in animated form than under Hama’s pen.

    Of course, my favourite toy-related bit was when Hawk finally showed up in the cartoon after the promotion to general, and I was able to haul out my “missile commander” version from 1983 and brag to all my friends that I had the new team leader before his figure showed up in stores. I didn’t have that type of respect again until I got the Rolling Thunder, which was basically a more practical version of Metal Gear.

  15. I’ve been collecting these new G.I. Joes, too. They’re pretty good quality. It’s cool to find out that Mr. Parish even picks these silly things up.

    By-the-by, I picked up the H.I.S.S. Tank and only a couple of the stickers are pre-stuck. They still come with a bunch of them on a card and instructions on where to put them (har har har). Of course, they all come prebuild now, which doesn’t bother me in the least.

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