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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…”
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.
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!
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!