Thursday, August 23, 2007

MINI REVIEW: KUNG-FU GRIP G.I. JOE

When Hasbro announced in 2005 that they would no longer produce the 11 ½ “ G.I. Joes, I was crestfallen. As a 1/6th scale action figure addict, I loved checking out the toy stores and the toy departments of my local discount stores to see what new creations they had come up with. That would now be at an end. I also knew that, as went Hasbro, so would go the rest of the industry. Just as they had reintroduced the 1/6th scale action figure to the market in the early 90s, Hasbro would send the signal to all the other toymakers that figures of that size were no longer hip. And I was right.


Then, a few weeks ago, I was perusing some photos online that someone had taken at the latest San Diego Comic Con and, amid all the new Transformers and Marvel superheroes, there stood new repro versions of the G.I. Joe Adventure Team with the legendary Kung Fu Grip. Not only were they reasonable facsimiles of the old figures, but they were packaged in the old, oblong boxes with the painted covers (known as coffin boxes to collectors). I nearly fell off my chair when I saw them! I wasn’t sure, however, when they would be made available or if they were only limited editions sold at ridiculous prices.

Although the Hasbro Website says that they are sold exclusively at Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters, posters on the Yahoo! Captain Action list said that they bought these new throwback Joes at their local Walmarts. Despite my aversion to that particular drearily lit, narrow-aisled discount chain, I went on a hunt for these new Joes. Unfortunately, the first couple Walmarts I visited had hopelessly understocked toy departments. They reminded me of those old Soviet GUM stores where gray peasant women fought over the last pair of pantyhose on the huge expanse of empty shelving. I finally found a Walmart that, not only had amply stocked shelves like a good capitalistic institution, but had a healthy stock of Kung Fu Grip G.I. Joes. The store had all five versions of the Joe in stock and they were reasonably priced at only $9.95 per unit. Since I already owned a vintage Land Adventurer (the guy with the brunette hair and beard), I decided to buy the other four: Air Adventurer (blonde), Sea Adventurer (redhead), Man of Action (brunette sans beard), and G.I. Joe Adventurer (African-American).

The boxes are amazing recreations of those wonderful coffin boxes I remember from my youth. They even advertise the old adventure sets they used to sell (although there is a disclaimer on these boxes which states that the sets are no longer available). I really bought these figures for the boxes, but I still wanted to see how accurate the repro figures were, so I sliced the tape holding the lids on (no shrink wrap on these retro babies) and peered inside:



I was a little disappointed that Hasbro used a clear plastic form to hold the figure in place rather than the old cardboard stays they used to use, but I understand their desire to keep the product secure. The costumes were exactly the same, and the headsculpts are pretty close to the originals. The flocking for the hair and beards seems softer and longer, and the distribution of flocking is more controlled, creating a more neatly groomed appearance.









The old figures were pretty skimpy on accessories, and these new figures are exactly the same. In addition to their unique outfits, each figure came with a shoulder holster and pistol. At first I was dismayed to see that these figures came with revolvers. I was certain that my Land Adventurer from 1971 had an automatic, in keeping with the standard military side arm. After checking with my G.I. Joe reference book, I discovered that the old Adventure Team figures did in fact come with that chintzy looking revolver. I’ve set my vintage Land Adventurer (left) next to the new Air Adventurer for comparison. Although the automatic pictured with the original Joe is not vintage, it’s a close facsimile of the pistol I recall from childhood:

While no Hasbro reproductions have ever been spot on, owing to changes in toy making practices and newer safety considerations, these Kung Fu Grip Joes come the closest in my mind to recreating the look and feel of the originals. I also appreciate that they didn’t tack on a hefty price for the nostalgia buzz. At $9.95 per Joe, you get quite a flashback for your money.

1 comment:

Pith Helmet said...

Interesting post. It reminds me of my own diligent search for the new AT Joes. Comparison to GUM shopper was dead-on.