G.I. Joe Collectors' Club Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H.
Pacific Theatre - Chuckles and Shipwreck
Over the years, G.I. Joe in general has had countless identities. Ever since 1964, the line has constantly evolved and always struggles to stay current and relevant in the society that is prevelant at the time. The results are often mixed with everything from Extreme to Adventure Team, to Sigma 6 and even Valor Vs. Venom...the one thing consistent about the G.I. Joe brand has been it's ability to flex with the times, again, sometimes with mixed results. Even within those different themes of the G.I. Joe brand there tends to be some serious fluctuation. As a Real American Hero collector you can see a very strict division in the fandom between classic sculpts, new sculpts, collectors in it for the "fun", or collectors into it because of the richness of the hobby and the history behind it. No one of these collecting styles is any more valid or 'correct' than the other, yet it seems like with Real American Hero, the division is definitely there, and it's not often you see fans crossing those lines.
So where the heck am I going with this train of thought? I consider myself one of those fans who can appreciate pretty much every aspect of the Real American Hero legacy, but there is no doubt in my mind that the most profound effect on my "G.I. Joe" life if you will, was created by the classic sculpt Real American Hero stuff from 1982-1994. Don't get me wrong, I love the new sculpts and I really love Sigma 6 as well, but without those figures from '82-'94, the Real American Hero would be a shell of what it currently is. Those classic figures may not be as detailed...they may have their own share of proportion problems...but they've got a ton of "character", which is something that some of the newer stuff tends to lack a bit. They have a very succint identity.
In the last few years, the classic sculpt stuff has almost seemed like the red-headed stepchild of the Joe brand. While Hasbro offered some product in the form of comic packs and Toys "R" Us 6-Packs, there didn't seem to be an exhorbitant amount of thought or preparation put into it. It appeared as though they just were releasing these items for the sake of releasing them without considering theme, story, character, or design. The DTC adventure really turned up the "cool" knob on the 6-Packs, but it was just in time for the classic sculpts to be phased out of them and replaced by new sculpts, which are cool in their own right, but just don't hit me like the classic sculpt stuff does. While I may love the toys, there is just this...feeling I get when I bust open a new classic sculpt figure for the first time.
Because our selection of classic sculpt items has been so sporadic in recent years, I always want to see something new. Something that goes in a different direction and offers some coolness that we haven't seen ten times in the last five years. Generally, the Collectors' Club does a fantastic job with their exclusives, not only giving us fun characters, but giving us great decos, very interesting concepts, and a terrific story. The pinnacle of their design ability I think came with the Iron Grenadier Vs. Steel Brigade set back in 2005, but the other sets surrounding that have always offered some fantastic stuff that really expanded the richness of the classic sculpt history. It is because of this that I was somewhat dismayed by the COBRA Mortal when it was revealed last year. It was a perfect chance to branch out in a new direction and really give us a great new design for a character who most fans could only think about, and not really involve in their Joe universe. And it's also why at first I was kind of bummed when I saw the previews of the Pacific Theatre Flaming M.O.T.H. set. Here was a perfect chance to give us some Joes with new concepts, new ideas, and in a cool new direction. Instead we got figures that may have used new parts, but still VERY closely resembled their classic versions. In other words, they gave us something new without really giving us anything new. That really bothered me when I first saw it.
But I've got the toys in hand now...so what are my thoughts?
About as polar opposite as it can get, and I really can't put my finger on why. Really, there should be no concrete reason why I would suddenly love this set when I first wasn't wild about it...but from the minute I pulled Shipwreck out of that box, I simply can't stop smiling at these figures and having fun with them. But let's break it down some more.
We'll cover Chuckles first.
Chuckles was a character that just never really did anything for me, to be honest. As a kid I wasn't really sure what place he played in the G.I. Joe history...an "undercover" agent seemed like a strange specialty, and it really seemed like Hasbro might have been taking advantage of the whole Miami Vice craze at the time. There's no doubt, though, that the original figure was actually a pretty cool one. Very lightly decked out with a rubberized shoulder holster and tiny pistol, Chuckles seemed very out of place among a squad of heavy machine gun toting soldiers. But once Larry Hama got his hands on him and kind of morphed him into more of a secret agent and less of an undercover agent, the character really started to take shape.
Now, I have a deep affinity for Chuckles and have deeply integrated him into my G.I. Joe universe. He is their top secret agent in the field, capable of assimilating any identity and one of the most skilled intelligence agents on the planet. The way Devils' Due kind of cast him off always rubbed me the wrong way, and I really love that the Collectors' Club kind of brought him back to life with a few simple lines of text on his filecard.
But what about this figure?
First of all, I love the fact that the Club now does not seem to be limited by what head sculpts are available. By being able to tool and produce new head sculpts, it really opens up the library of potential characters, and I'm glad for that. Chuckles' head is a new tool that they made just for this set, and it works because Chuckles always had a very distinctive appearence, and if he was to be used again, he really had to maintain that look. The new head sculpt looks good, and I think I actually prefer it in this new plastic when compared to the older version. The paint apps are crisp and clear, baggy eyes and all, and it works well.
For the body sculpt, the Collectors' Club went with Heavy Duty, which at first I wasn't sure about, but when all is said and done seems to be a great choice. The shirt Heavy Duty wore can easily resemble the familiar Hawaiian shirt that made Chuckles famous, and the Club uses it to perfection here almost exactly matching the pattern of the flowers and such that the shirt had on it back in the day. The blue base of the shirt is nearly perfect as well. The only thing that stands out slightly is the knife sheath on his chest, but that can easily be written off and integrated into the backstory they came up with for this version of the character. I do have a minor complaint, though. I do wish that they had found a way to paint the grenades. I understand that there are likely budget limitations (mostly caused by the new tooling of the heads and Polly, I'd imagine) but the grenades look very out of place the same blue color as the shirt. There always is some give and take with producing these figures on such a small scale, though, so I can accept it.
Using the Heavy Duty mold does present some challenges, of course. First of all, Heavy Duty was a far more muscular character than Chuckles was planned originally. However as Chuckles appeared in the cartoon and the comic, he was written and drawn as a much larger, bulkier character. Because of this, the muscular arms actually work pretty well.
All in all, from a parts choice standpoint, I think the Collectors' Club ended up doing a great job. Unfortunately I wish they had gone in a somewhat different direction...I would have loved a more combat ready "Special Forces" Chuckles...this would have been a perfect chance to do that. But ultimately a lot of collectors get caught up in nostalgia and really love new figures that closely resemble the classic ones, so in that case, maybe the Club is providing what most collectors want. Regardless of my thoughts about wanting something new and different, it's obvious the Club put a ton of thought into this figure and really put an effort forward to produce something of quality.
Along with the Chuckles figure comes an assortment of pretty neat accessories that fit Chuckles very well.
The Collectors' Club goes with all new sculpt weapons this time around, using the Uzi that came with the Wave 7 Snake Eyes, the walkie talkie that came with Bombstrike of the same assortment, and the grenade launcher that originally came with Link. He also comes with his trusty filecard and clear battle stand. First of all, I think the walkie talkie was a great idea, although it's a pretty thick accessory and it's tough for Chuckles to hold it. The Uzi works well, but the grenade launcher just does not seem to fit Chuckles personality at all. Still, you can't argue that the weapons they chose are all pretty good and work fairly well for my tastes.
While I wasn't a big fan of the concept of redoing Chuckles by making him very similar to the original, it quickly became obvious that the Collectors' Club took great pains to be authentic with the parts selection and the final execution ends up excellent. Very, very nice work on the figure, even if I do wish he looked a bit different than he did back in 1987.
Now we come to Shipwreck.
For reasons I can't quite discern, there seems to be a considerable amount of conflict as to Shipwreck. Some fans absolutely love him and others totally detest him, and I haven't quite figured out how to tell the division between the two. In the cartoon he was presented with a very gruff, crass attitude, and even came across as somewhat of a slacker, something that seems pretty unimaginable for a special forces trooper. The fact that Hasbro kind of shoe-horned him into the Navy SEAL specialty later on in the line as well, simply because he had a naval background, also seems to have really upset some folks.
Personally, I never really detested Shipwreck, but he certainly wasn't one of my favorite characters. He's one of the characters that got an immensely strong presentation in the cartoon, but scarcely appeared in the comics at all, and honestly, it tends to be the comics that I base my Joe history on. Obviously I have watched all of the cartoons, and I am aware of his presence in them, I just never really chose to use that character to represent Shipwreck.
There are those folks, though, who absolutely love Shipwreck BECAUSE of how he was portrayed in the cartoon, and that's perfectly cool with me. Like him or hate him you can't argue that at least the cartoon gave him some personality and some character, which is something that some would argue has been lacking from the Joe media in recent years.
Because of his strong following, it's easy to understand why Hasbro (and the Collectors' Club) might want to take advantage of that and get this character out there for folks to buy. Only problem is, none of the tooling was available for the classic figure, which is the one everyone identifies with. So, the Collectors' Club invests some cash into retooling a new head sculpt, only modified to work with the body for Cutter, from 1984. My first thought was that this really wasn't going to work all that well. Boy was I dead wrong.
Cutter's body ends up working to near perfection as a Shipwreck base, sculpted on life vest and all.
The new head sculpt looks terrific, I must admit, with crisp, clear sculpting lines, white painted eyes, and clearly defined facial hair. It ends up looking really, really nice in this new plastic. Usually I really have an issue with figures from the '82-'84 era because it just ends up looking somewhat scrawny next to the more modern stuff (and I mean the '86-'94 stuff, not the REAL modern stuff), but to my pleasent surprise, I find myself really loving how this Cutter/Shipwreck hybrid turns out. The shirt sculpting looks terrific...even better than I remember it, wrinkled around the smoothly sculpted life vest and it really shows just how well the figures were detailed, even twenty-two years ago. Light blue paint so perfectly matches the old school Shipwreck's blue shirt that it really looks like Shipwreck is wearing a lifevest over his classic uniform. It is just perfect. I love the dull gray color of the vest itself as well, keeping the colors more muted, and the "USN" logo is a nice touch, too.
His pants end up mimmicking the classic version's extremely well, and I love the black belt, black holster, and black shoes. It ends up bringing the color a lot darker overall and blends flawlessly with the rest of the blue on the figure. Terrific. Little touches of gold on the belt and holster strap just round everything off great.
A slight white t-shirt matches the white sailor's cap as well, and Shipwreck ends up looking pretty realistic. There are a large share of G.I. Joe figures that look really "out of this world", even ones who should be designed with a more realistic thought in mind. Shipwreck looks like someone you might see in a naval shipyard on a daily basis, which is great.
Rounding off Shipwreck's look is his ever-present tattoo, and even the rank stripes on his right sleeve! The Club went to great lengths to get almost every detail down with this re-issue. I do find myself at least a bit surprised that they seemed to go to great lengths to represent his familiar tattoo on his arm, but it ends up looking different than the one he had in the past.
Really, it's a VERY minor point, though. They look exceptionally similar, just not exactly the same. But really, it's close enough to look okay from a casual glance, and I consider myself very picky just for pointing it out. If I didn't though, I'd be getting plenty of emails chastising me for it. ;)
Like Chuckles, Shipwreck comes with some nice accessories, starting off with the absolutely fantastic submachine gun that the Wave 7 Snake Eyes originally came with. He also has a great knife and the newly retooled Polly, which looks great. The claws seem to be a bit rubbery compared to the classic version as well, so you have a bird that sits easily on Shipwreck's arm and best of all, one that won't up and break on you as easily.
Honestly I might have preferred that Chuckles get this submachine gun, simply because it seems to serve an intelligence agent better than a crass sailor, but besides that minor complaint, the accessory compliment is very, very good.
All in all, I find myself feeling much the same for Shipwreck as I do for Chuckles. Conceptually I would have loved to see the Club go in a slightly different direction. A different style uniform, maybe? Something similiar to the Devils' Due look, only in classic sculpt form rather than new sculpt form? I dunno. I know there are a ton of collectors out there who really identify Shipwreck with this look, so I can totally understand why they made the choice, I just wish they'd made a different one.
One thing I cannot doubt, though, is that the Collectors' Club put a ton of thought into this figure. Retooling the head to fit a Cutter body was a great idea...retooling Polly was brilliant. But the topper is without a doubt the absolute crazy level of detail they went into with the rank insignia and arm tattoo that really round off the figure well. He ends up looking like Shipwreck, which is all you can ask for in a collecting world where people can't seem to see their favorite characters looking any different than they did two decades ago.
When I first saw this set in picture form I admit I was a bit bummed. We get so little classic sculpt product, I really want to see the ball knocked out of the park every possible chance we can get. I kind of felt that this set was a bit too much of a rehash of stuff we've seen already. However, from an execution point of view, these figures just feel solid, fun, and well made. Their colors all compliment each other perfectly, the character choices work, and the figures are simply great. If the Club had gone in a minorly different direction this set could have been near perfect. But as it is, I think they did some fantastic work, and I find myself REALLY looking forward to what they're coming out with next. From the last Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H. set to the Convention set, to whatever else the Collectors' Club might have up their sleeves for the 25th Anniversary, I think we're going to get some very pleasent surprises in the classic sculpt front this year. Keep 'em coming!
If you like the looks of this set, head over to Master Collector and consider ordering!