Jealous Hulk steals G.I.Joe title (*)

Jealous of Sgt. Slaughter landing a job with the Joes, Hulk Hogan stars in a movie with this exact same title as a G.I. Joe story in 1989. That is 2 years after this story was released. On another note, today we will be having absolutely no limits or restrictions as far as the levels and nature of the hostilities and offense. We’ll be taking to an especially ruthless or vicious manner. Time to get into the story told in Special Missions #4, featuring on the Impel Trading Card #86, No Holds Barred.

(*) Uncomfirmed, but if it’s on the internet, it’s true, so there you have it. Alternate facts 2.0.

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Wild Bill is piloting a PBY transport plane somewhere over the South China Sea. The rest of the team are Leatherneck, Roadblock and Lifeline. The cargo is a captured Cobra Firebat. The plane is under attack by a Hind helicopter of the Oktober Guard. Roadblock and Leatherneck trade shots with the Guard.

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Lifeline insists he is a non-combatant medic and he’s trying to extract the Firebat’s black boxes. The fact that Lifeline doesn’t want to shoot at the Oktober Guard and he is currently failing to extract the black boxes by needing to bypass several anti-tamper devices, is causing Leatherneck to give him a hard time. The plane’s engines get shot and Wild Bill orders everyone to bail out. Leatherneck has a Stinger Missile launcher with him, but couldn’t fire it from within the PBY so once in the air – freefalling – he fires one at the Hind and knocks out the tail rotor, sending it crashing down too.

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The Joes touch down in the middle of the jungle. They find Lifeline caught up in a tree with his parachute. After they cut him down, they move out in the direction of the PBY’s crash site to recover the black boxes. The Oktober Guard – having crash-landed themselves, take off with the same goal in mind. The jungle proves to be treacherous and the Joes need to overcome leeches and get past a tiger. The Oktober Guard have found a trail and use a bend in the path to lay an ambush. The Joes are heading down the same trail when Leatherneck notices the same curve and points out that it would be perfect for an ambush. He catches the smell of the Russian tobacco from Brekhov’s cigarette and the Joes scatter in defense. Both sides exchange fire and Leatherneck gets wounded. Wild Bill and Roadblock keep the Oktober Guard pinned down while Lifeline drags Leatherneck to safety. Lifeline refuses to use Leatherneck’s grenade launcher which leads to more insults by Leatherneck. Wild Bill gets shot too and Roadblock and Lifeline carry the 2 wounded Joes away (including Wild Bill’s hat). Stormavik and Schrage have also been wounded but Brekhov orders them to continue to the crash site as he knows the Joes won’t stop either.

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The Oktober Guard reach the crash site first and Daina climbs on board, her being the lightest. She extracts the black boxes with ease – Lifeline had done all the difficult work before the PBY went down – when the Joes arrive. Another heated exchange is cut short when both teams come under fire from river pirates. The pirates’ leader, Sarawak Sally, keeps them locked up their boat.

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The pirates are forcing other prisoners to fight for their entertainment. The loser of the latest fight is shot by Sarawak Sally. The Joes and the Oktober Guard are then brought up to the deck. Each side will have to draw straws to see who gets to fight for their teams freedom. Horrorshow makes a nasty comment and Sally wants to make sure that he gets the shortest straw.

For the Joes, Lifeline drew the short straw. He argues that he is a non-combattant, but Horrorshow starts attacking. Lifeline deflects him every time, until Horrorshow crashes into a mast and remains unconscious. Wild Bill explains that Lifeline is a black belt in Aikido – “a Zen martial art with no offensive moves. The purpose is to redirect violent energy away from oneself…”

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Sarawak Sally congratulates Lifeline and wants to execute Horrorshow. Lifeline steps in and refuses to let her kill him. She calls him greedy, asking for not only his own life, but that of his team and the lives of the Oktober Guard. She asks if he wants the black boxes as well. He replies that they are not worth more bloodshed. He tells her the boxes contain Cobra secrets and that they would be rewarded if the pirates bring the boxes back to the Cobra embassy, much to the outrage of Leatherneck. Lifeline stands his ground and responds that if he didn’t tell Sally the truth, the Oktober Guard’s blood would be on his hands. Sarawak Sally laughs and tells them they are all free to go because one of them has the courage of his convictions. She drops the boxes in the river as an offering to the river spirits and the ships sail away.

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I have to admit, I find this a bit of an odd story. The plot and the battle scenes are great, but the River pirates are a bit too much. I get that you’d need a third party involved to show respect for Lifeline’s beliefs as a medic, but they’re just that little bit over the top. Also, for the fourth time in a row, we don’t really get any Cobras. Sure, it’s their Firebat and secrets the plot runs with, but they don’t seem to be chasing the Joes. Also, black boxes aren’t really black and they are designed to survive plane crashes on land and water, so the Joes or the Guard could just return to the river later and search for the boxes. They also send out a signal, so locating them in the river should be fairly easy. As Special Missions go, this one doesn’t do it justice. There are other stories that are far more compelling and – well – just better.

I do have to point out that I also share Lifeline’s conviction of non-combat. I do believe that violence is never the answer and there are always better solutions to be found. Compromise is underrated. I don’t approve of the pointless bickering and discussing in politics, but I do believe that true solutions can only be found by analyzing the issue, taking account of all the viewpoints and finding a solution that can be agreed on by all involved parties. The survival of the fittest has been turned around to the survival of the best armed and that is never a good thing. A few weeks ago, a new war was avoided by not attacking Iran. I hope this sets a tone for the international politics going forward because the only people getting hurt by war and terrorism are the men, women and children like us. The people living their lives, working, paying taxes, enjoying the arts, playing games, … It’s never the politicians or the rich, they only profit from it. All I am saying, is give peace a chance. I get it, strange to come from someone who writes about a toy line, comic book series and all things related, that is focused on war, terrorism and conflict. Don’t get me wrong, I love G.I.Joe and I like watching action movies and reading war stories and so on, but think about it. Stories were once told by professional storytellers to give the illiterate people a chance to learn about something. The stories would have morals and meaning and would educate or inform the listeners. If we take this concept into the modern world, shouldn’t we consider all these war stories and violence on tv, in books and movies as a warning about how ugly conflict is? Imagine there is no war, we wouldn’t need to spend billions on weapons and defenses. The money saved would enable the hungry to be fed, the homeless to get sheltered, we – the human race that is – would become better, focusing on ourselves as humans rather than on gods, kings or countries. Bettering ourselves rather than finding new ways to kill the planet and other people. Maybe it’s utopian, maybe it’s visionary, maybe it’s hope. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but let me have this dream. Now, I may have used quite a lot of references in this little rant, but let me end with a quote of a man with a vision.

The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them. — G. Roddenberry

Right, now, let’s get back into it with the character spotlight on this card, Lifeline. As a kid, I was part of the Red Cross Youth and so it’s no big surprise that the Joe’s medic would be one of my favorites. At the time I got my Lifeline figure, I didn’t know that there had been another medic (Doc) and seeing that he came with a lot of accessories made him an instant draft whenever I went into battle against Cobra in another backyard battle. There have been 8 figure releases of Lifeline over the years, starting with the v1 in 1986. Now, immediately upon looking at the figure and his accessories, you’ll notice something strange. He has a molded gun on his left leg and he came with a silver gun – supposedly this one came from the holster on his chest. WTF Hasbro!? Seriously, Mr. Hama goes to the trouble of creating file cards and character depth and the toy manufacturer just adds some guns for fun. Maybe it’s supposed to be a BB-gun or a flare gun. Or it’s one of those novelty lighters… but then again, smoking kills so that would also send a wrong message.

Anyway, the same mold has been used to create the Tiger Force version in 1988 and the v3 in 1991 (mail-in offer with the original colors but different legs because Kellogg’s didn’t want guns on the figure).

In 1994 and 2002 we get different versions altogether. As part of the Battle Force, Lifeline got a new design with a red bomber jack and white pants and helmet with red details. His accessories were bright neon yellow. That would stick out in a crowd. No guns this time except for a flare gun (they got their act together now). He also got a knife, flashlight, case and grappling hook. The 2002 figure is a repaint of the v4 with a new head, no helmet this time, unshaven and with black accessories.

Then in 2004 we get Sgt. Lifeline (I’m beginning to see a pattern here, Hasbro really should hire someone to take care of their trademarks.) The Anti-Venom Task Force was a Toys ‘R US exclusive set that also featured Barricade, Charbroil, Duke, Mutt and Roadblock. Lifeline here is a repaint of Stretcher (that other medic the Joes got in 1990). He even comes with that flashy looking sled contraption. The filecard does depict him as we know him with the red helmet and green glasses.

From 2010, we get Edwin ‘Lifeline’ Steen. This figure was part of the Z-Force 3-pack alongside Calvin ‘Jammer’ Mondale and Rico ‘Gaucho’ Gonzalles, made for the 2010 International G.I.Joe Convention of the Official Collector’s Club. It was -again- a repaint of the v4 including the head. He did finally inherit Doc’s stretcher though.

The next year the v7 of Lifeline is an homage to the original figure, taking back to the red & white color scheme. Accessories galore, including an IV drip, a new stretcher, shock pads, removable helmet, medic pack, syringe,  … It did come with a pistol (could still be a flare gun), but also came with a rifle. That one is just unexplainable.

Finally in 2015, we get a new version of the Tiger Force Lifeline as part of the

Tiger Force vs. Iron Grenadiers 2015 Joecon Exclusive boxset. The Springfield edition. The set also included Sgt. Stalker, Dial-Tone, Big Brawler, Wreckage, Recondo, General Mayhem, Metal-Head, Undertow Officer, three Iron Anvils and three Undertow figures. Mostly a repaint of the 2010 version, but without the assault rifle.

My absolute favorite will always be the v1, the only one I have in my collection and my only medic…

The story we looked at today, SM#4 No holds barred, is the introduction of the character of Lifeline. He later is part of the team that meddles in the Cobra Civil War and in another Special Mission (#25), we’ll see him again as part of the Tiger Force when they fight the Lower Darklonian Separatist Front in New York.

As I said before, Lifeline was my first medic and having spent some of my childhood as part of the Red Cross Youth, I held him in high regard as part of my team. I never knew the comics as a kid, but when I played with Lifeline, he was a pacifist. Do no harm!

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Since the next few cards will keep on showing (awesome) covers of the Special Missions, it’s no great mystery as to what we’ll be discussing next time. Still, I hope to see you then when we look at an epic battle with a clear difference between good and evil. A bit too clear perhaps, but still a hell of a fight. So, see you later. Keep afloat!

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

Burn-out

The state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress that occurs when one feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands… Or the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion. Actually, both explanations are appropriate for today’s story. Nice work on the pun people. We have arrived at the Impel Trading Card #85, spotlighting the Marvel Special Mission #3, Burn-Out.

Impel Trading Card #85 - Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3
Impel Trading Card #85 – Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3
Impel Trading Card #85 - Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Featuring Slip-Stream
Impel Trading Card #85 – Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Featuring Slip-Stream

Somewhere in the Middle East (Trucial Abysmia?), Stalker, Leatherneck and Slip-Stream are sitting in front of a restaurant with a jetfighter mercenary named Deke.

Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Deke.
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Deke.

He’s a veteran American pilot who was shot down and spent several years as a POW. After returning to the States he no longer could find a piloting job. The local despot, Colonel Sharif, is generously paying foreign pilots, so Deke signed up. Deke is giving the Joes a map with all of the SAM sites, as well as location of an aircraft storage and the maintenance crew housing. In return, Deke gets a stack of money. Leatherneck warns Deke to stay away from the air base tonight.
One of the locals hears them talking and rats them out to the authorities. In Colonel Sharif’s office, Captain Habib reports that someone had informed him that Deke had met with the Americans. The Captain’s orders are to have Deke detained, questioned and shot. And to find the Joes.
Back at the garage the Joes are using as their base, Crank-Case is modifying a van for the assault on the airbase.
Meanwhile at police HQ, Captain Habib is beating Deke to learn the location of the Joes. Deke refuses to give up any information even when a Sergeant Abdul continues to beat him.

Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Sgt. Abdul at work
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Sgt. Abdul at work

Finally, Captain Habib threatens to poke out his eyes which gives Deke the incentive to tell him the location of the Joe’s temporary base of operations. Being the administrative bureaucrats that most totalitarians are, they want Deke to sign a written confession. As Sharif unties Deke, he tells him that there is a secret SAM site and calls him a coward. Deke stabs Sharif with the pen, kicks him to the ground and smashes a chair over the head of the guard and escapes.
At the garage, the Joes are applying the finishing touches to the van, while Stalker is giving Ace the SAM coordinates over the radio. At that moment, Colonel Sharif’s men show up outside the garage. Busting out, Leatherneck shoots a grenade into an APC that was blocking the road. A car chase with other APC’s takes them back into town. The Joes get some help from the Royalists as they destroy the APC’s in pursuit.

Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - The enemy of my enemy.
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – The enemy of my enemy.
The Joe team crashes the gates of the airfield but then the van’s engine dies, so they have to go on foot. The mission was to get Slip-Stream to a new Russian YAK-36, the equivalent of the Harrier VTOL jet. A new problem arises when they notice the hydraulics where pulled for repair. So Slip-Stream comes up with the idea of loading the fighter in one of the large cargo aircraft. As the Air Force is dropping bombs on the airfield, the cargo plane is able to take off with all aboard.
After his escape, Deke has made his way to a fighter jet. He is determined to help the Joes escape. Captain Habib, having shot the mercenary pilots for refusing to fly, sees the Joes taking off and takes command of the secret SAM site at the end of the main runway. Deke having gotten in an unarmed MIG flies up next to the Joes and then circles back to crash kamikaze style into the SAM site and Captain Habib, giving his life to save the Joe team.
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Going out with a BANG.
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Going out with a BANG.
Did you notice? No Cobra in this one. Still a good story though. But let’s start with the statistics stuff. The cover is done by Herb Trimpe, story by Larry Hama, coloring by Bob Sharen, letters by Phil Felix, editing was done by Bob Harras and the Editor in chief was Jim Shooter. Dated on February 3, 1987 with a cover price of $.75 (can you believe it?). 

Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 - Burn-out!
Marvel G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 – Burn-out!

These Special Missions are truly stand alone stories, although later some of them do tie in to the main story line. In this one, we visit Colonel Sharif for a second time. His first appearance was in the ARAH #1 mini-story, Hot Potato. We’ll cross paths with him a few times more in the future. Deke we only get to meet here in this story, given the fact that he seeks redemption for selling out his soul to fight for Colonel Sharif. The first shot we get of him, shows him drinking beer and smoking. Remember this is 1987, but still, it’s a comic book, aimed at kids, teens and adolescents. I don’t think you’d get away with something in this day and age. And to be honest, maybe that’s for the best. Deke was a POW and when he finally got released and returned home, nobody would hire him to fly. A man needs to make a living, so he got tempted by the money Colonel Sharif was offering… The Colonel’s own pilots can’t land at night… Quality staff right there. It must be hard to have to come home to a country that you almost died to protect and not being recognized for the sacrifice you made. I’m not saying Deke chose the right path, but you can certainly understand why he chose to work for Sharif. In the end, he feels responsible for the Joes, who are his team mates in this operation after all. And he gives his life to protect and save them, redeeming himself without even knowing what it was all about. A powerful story. And one that we will revisit in these Special Mission…

That it for this time. I’ll try and post the next one a bit sooner and more regularly than I have been posting. Life has been busy and I haven’t had the time to write on a regular basis as much as I would have loved to. I’m starting a new tradition here, half-New Year resolutions. Or something like that. Write more. It’s as simple as that and I really want to keep it up. So, keep coming back for more Joe. Next time, make sure you bring an offering for the River Spirits. Or if you want to sponsor me rather than them, let me know and I’ll send you my PayPal 🙂

Happy Collecting and YoJoe!

Is the typewriter mightier than the missile launcher?

I guess the time of pen and sword are behind us, although I still use a fountain pen for my daily work notes. Still, we keep on using the pen and sword metaphor. This week, we have arrived at Impel Trading Card #66, the man who can type faster than his shadow, Fast Draw.

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I guess this guy is the Joe equivalent for Cobra’s Mr. Bang Bang (well technically, he’s an Iron Grenadier, so Destro’s private army, but he was employed by CC, so I’m counting him as a Cobra). The difference between these 2 rocket men, is that Fast Draw has hand controls for his missiles, where Metal Head (a.k.a. Number One – yes, that’s a Star Trek reference) is shouting like a complete idiot.

Enough about that, the figure (yes, just the one release again, although the club recently announced they are releasing an updated version in the FSS 8.0) was released in 1987. I honestly couldn’t tell you if I have the figure in my collection. I’m guessing I do, but since all of my Joes are still boxed up, there’s no way to be sure… I guess my entire collection is a bit like Schrodinger’s cat at the moment. I have something or I don’t, there’s really no certainty these days 🙂

The first appearance of Fast Draw in the comic books (Marvel run), is in #60 I believe, where he is part of the group of Law & Order, Lt. Falcon & Chuckles, who kidnap General Hawk whilst believing they are actually members of G.I. Joe. A bit of a filler issue, after that, the whole Borovia story starts to unfold, oh and – SPOILER ALERT – CC gets shot (issue #61, amazing cover art).

I don’t think Fast Draw gets any (explicit) action in the cartoons, he may be in the background somewhere, but I don’t recollect him at all.

A bit of a shorter post this time, but there just isn’t a lot I can say about this guy. If he were here, he probably would be able to talk some more about his clerk typing specialities, but I won’t go into that right now.

Next time, we’ll have another man (or is it woman nowadays?) with a lot of firepower on his/her back.

Until then, YoJoe and Happy Collecting!

Oh and Happy Mother’s Day to all our fantastic mothers who bought us our first Joes to play with!

The beginning…

Ok, what beter place to start than at the very beginning. Let me take you back to the year 1987. I’m 5 years old and my parents take me shopping to a big supermarket named GB. This chain also owns some family restaurants that are conveniently located next to their stores. When you order a children’s menu, you always receive a toy. Most of these toys were Chinese junk, but this time, I get my very first G.I.Joe 3 3/4 action figure, Blaster.

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Apparently I had been quite persistent in wanting more of these toys, because we went eating there 2 more times in the following week. Those meals gave me Blocker and the fantastic 1984 Storm Shadow.

Unfortunately, when we went to eat there again, the deal with Hasbro must have ended and I got some lame toy car. But my interest in G.I.Joe was launched and my collection had to expand. Like I said before, the restaurant was located next to the supermarket. The concept of these stores was to not only sell food, but also non-food items, such as cookware, books, clothing and of course toys. So me being persuasive again led me to my first vehicle, the S.L.A.M.

The adventures could now begin and with birthdays and other occasions in sight, my collection got off to a great start…