A real nostalgic hero

This is awesome. Awesome in a stupid, frivolous way, sure. But awesome nevertheless.

It’s no secret that I am hopelessly addicted to nostalgia. It’s pretty much what I’ve built my current career on: I wrote about games I played as a kid, and that led to me getting work at 1UP where I took charge of the classic gaming section, which in turn led to me being transplanted from art to editorial, where I promptly set up shop writing (and talking) about old games full-time. I suppose it’s just another sign that I’m aging gracelessly, since I’m also a hopeless sucker for other things that tie back into my youth.

I bought some of Hasbro’s 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe toys a while back, of course. Tonight I finally got around to opening one of them — specifically, the original, commando-style Snake-Eyes. (Not to be confused with Snake-Eyes going commando, because yuck.) It seemed appropriate, since the original Snake-Eyes was the first figure I bought from the classic line. (In retrospect, I was sort of lucky, since that was pretty much the only time I ever saw any version of the character at a store until many years later when the entire line had gone down the tubes and he was wearing neon purple and blue.) I always kind of liked the original version better than the wolf-wrangling, ninjutsu-using, Venetian-blind-wearing revision that everyone else seems to crazy about. There’s a sort of elegant simplicity in the original figure; the story goes that Hasbro was running over-budget on the initial line-up of toys and decided to produce one character who didn’t have any paint detailing. So they mashed together body parts from other characters and cast them in solid black, then shocked the world by going and making such an evil-looking guy a hero. Because, you know, Darth Vader or whatever.

Anyway, I hadn’t really given the anniversary figures a close look, but now that I have I’m impressed, and a little embarrassed. Embarrassed because these guys feel really fragile, not like the solid chunks of death plastic they were when I was young. Although I guess it’s just trading one form of fragility for another; the old ones were made of a more brittle form of plastic, and nothing was sadder than a hero with a broken thumb. Except, of course, a hero with a broken crotch. My extremity-deficient Joes usually ended up being disassembled and reformed into bizarre amalgams, such as the infamous terror of my playset, a horrifying hybrid of Major Bludd, Sgt. Slaughter and Wild Weasel who sported Zartan’s instantly-tanning forearms for extra fun in the sun.

No, these are fragile in a different way: they’re meticulously detailed and loaded down with all kinds of gear. It’s sort of clever, actually, since apparently a bunch of characters share a common super-minimal body but all manage to look unique thanks to the accessories layered over top. For instance, his web gear is now an accessory rather than molded to his body, and even includes a working holster for his pistol and a working sheathe for his knife. (Disappointingly, not a spike-knuckle trench knife. But a boy can dream.) The rather fussy paint jobs help, too. The old Snake-Eyes was unadorned black plastic, but this new one has lots of subtle, near-black detail that looks fantastic.

But that’s why I’m embarrassed: Because clearly, this is no toy for little kids. All those little bits and pieces, the thin webs of plastic, the intricate but extremely delicate jointing — they all scream, “This is made for manchildren!” And, yeah, they are. They take careful aim and hit me where it hurts — right in the childhood — while also managing to make the real fragments of my childhood feel stupid and obsolete. Side-by-side, they make the old ones look ridiculously simple and plain, as you can see.

Of course, Jinx is still a brilliant character, lumpy awkward figure notwithstanding. You have to respect a she-ninja who meticulously does her nails before going into combat. Jinx knows what’s up. Just because you’re getting paid by the government to kick dudes in the breadbasket while wearing a loose, shapeless robe doesn’t mean you can’t feel sexy.

7 thoughts on “A real nostalgic hero

  1. I bought a Cobra Trooper just for the novelty of actually being able to buy a non-clearance action figure for $5 again, and I love the thing despite having had no GI Joes during my childhood. Hasbro, as I may have said before, is getting really good at catering to the adult collector (or “manchild,” if you like) market without resorting to specialty stores. Since by all accounts the children’s toy market is constantly losing ground to video games it’s probably a wise move on their part in the short term. (Though in the long term you still get the “what do we do when these guys get bored and/or die” problem that plagues superhero comics, but as always the corporate forces involved will burn that bridge when they come to it.)

    Oddly, the GI Joes I collect are the reissues of the 1964-76 version, even though they were long gone by the time I was a kid. Don’t ask me what provokes me to wallow in other peoples’ nostalgia, but those things are really neat.

  2. I’ve been buying these, too. Upcoming figures will capitalize on people’s nostalgia for the cartoon show. There’s a blue-suited, green-glasses Baroness repaint from the first miniseries and a Lady Jaye with javelin and no cap, among others.

  3. Jesus, seeing that thing reminds me of the only four G.I. Joe toys I had, forgive me as I cannot remember their names:

    Snake Eyes that changed colors in warm water
    Cobra King or something to that effect, he came with a flying ship thingy
    Bear Claw? The one that looked like a gold Robocop
    An orange ninja with a mask over the face

    Though to this day, I still have all my Street Fighter edition G.I. Joes.

  4. Now I wonder if I threw away all those old bins full of GI Joes. I do remember having an old black Snake Eyes just like the reprint.

  5. I have no nostalgia for GI Joe. But Star Wars, Go-Bot, and/or He-Man toys… all totems of a place I’ll never be able to return to, no matter how much I might want to.

  6. Snake Eyes doesn’t seem like such a bad fellow. I can feel the mercy radiating from his… goggles.

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