I’m not entirely sure that the first G.I. Joe ARAH comic was released on a Thursday in June 1982. But when you put 13 people around a table to create something that will be discussed and loved for thousands of years, it had to have been a Holy Thursday for us collectors!
This post will be a bit longer than the others since today we present the original 13 G.I. Joe members as featured on the Impel Trading Cards #39 through #50 and (yes, I’m cheating a bit here) #53. I have no idea why they put the general 2 cards away from his troops, but I’m overruling it and correcting it here. Another thing we need to get out of the way immediately is the fact that we should have had 14 members. Shooter never got the attention she deserved in the ARAH storyline, mainly because the character was meant as a wink to Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter. Many years later (the 2006 Declassified comic), Devil’s Due did right by her and told us the untold story of the 14th Joe. Since we are talking about the Impel Trading Cards from 1991, Shooter is not featured in the series.
As a final intro remark, I need to point out that I didn’t really know these characters (or in these form anyway) until my adult collector years. Therefore, you may notice that I don’t know much about some of these characters and I don’t have most of the ’82 line in my collection as well. It’s my goal to collect these original figures in the next few years, I had some other priorities first and since we are moving in the near future, my collection is getting boxed and will remain in boxes for quite some time…
Now, I was born in 1982 and the first Joes that were sold here were those from 1987 (and some from ’86 I think). My collecting days started then and so – as a kid of 5 – I wasn’t aware of the comic books and cartoons until later. I think we had the cartoons translated into Dutch and released on VHS in the early ’90’s. From the comics, only the Special Missions were translated and sold between 1987 and 1992. I got the 6 TPB’s that were released in 1990-92, but only one of those I was able to find when I was a kid (11-12 years old). We have a very different “comic book” tradition here (think bigger format and stories of Tintin, Blake and Mortimer, Luke and Lucy, …) and I don’t think that the US comics sold very well, not until the late 90’s and early 21st century that is. Even now, comics are still on the rise here, with translations being sold of Batman, Spiderman, … I can’t get my head around these translations, I guess it’s a good way to get younger kids to start reading comics, but once you start thinking about it – only 20 million speak Dutch, why the hell would Spiderman who lives in New York be talking Dutch to all his friends and enemies? And once you start reading comics in English, you don’t want to go back to reading translations. Trust me on that one.
Now, enough of my remarks. Let’s get going.
Kicking off the original Joes is #39, Zap.
I’m pretty sure Sheldon Cooper may have a thing or two to say about having an engineer as part of an elite force, but hey, where would we be without engineers? Zap is not an overly used Joe. He only appears in about a dozen of the Marvel ARAH run, but the stories he’s involved in are some of the best. He is introduced in the rescue of Dr. Burkhart along with the other Joes. He plays a crucial role in defusing the bomb left by Vance Wingfield (one of the best stories out there if you ask me). He is imprisoned together with Scarlett and Snake-Eyes in Springfield when we get to meet Billy. Is he the same Billy that is CC’s son or a different boy? In any case, he helps the Joes and they are able to escape. Zap is also seen helping to build the new Joe HQ in Utah. All in all, an original Joe, but later replaced by other Bazooka soldiers and not very memorable.
Next up, we have the Joes first Communication Officer, Breaker. This is card #40.
I only acquired Breaker a while ago (see this previous post). I’m still looking to get the original 13 members together in my collection. Breaker is the guy with the bubble gum that scares Cobra’s away by popping a bubble of said gum. Breaker was introduced along the other 12 original Joes and has seen quite a lot of action. During a mission in Trucial Abysmia, he gets captured and eventually is killed when the stolen Cobra Rage is destroyed.
In 1982, the first figure of Breaker was released, the only one from the team to not get a gun. I guess the bubble gum scare would be sufficient on the battlefield :-). Later on, Breaker would receive another 5 figures, albeit under different names. The final figure, from the 2009 Rise of Cobra series, even renames the man behind the code name from Alvin Kibbey to Abel Shaz.
Breaker’s most memorable cartoon action was when he, Shipwreck and Footloose are being held hostage by Cobra, being tricked by the subliminal messages implanted in the songs of Cold Slither.
Now, it’s time for #41, most likely the most liked and beloved Joe of all time. The one and only Silent Master, Snake-Eyes.
Nobody gets more attention in the ARAH comics run than the mysterious ninja Snake-Eyes. Yet, we never learn who he is. A loving son and brother, a patriotic soldier (LRRP), a skilled ninja, good friend, all of the above probably. I won’t be spending too much time on Snake-Eyes, read the comics yourself (okay, re-read them again), and decide for yourself what you like about the guy. Cause, like him, you will. The story Larry Hama, heck, the world he created for Snake-Eyes is so deep and elaborated that you can’t help but feel involved. Snake-Eyes’ story is interlinked with the next character in this Impel Series. More on him and her (you’ve guessed it by now, right?), follows below.
Unfortunately, a silent man is not very useful in a cartoon, so most of the time Snake-Eyes is a background character in the original cartoons. His love/hate relationship with Storm Shadow is moved to Spirit for the animated stories. Since there is not a lot I can say about Snake Eyes in cartoons, enjoy this clip of the man in action, maybe not his best action, but he sure can move like Jagger…
In the Renegades series, he is more important, but still only a secondary character. The live action movies, tell a somewhat true to the comic book story of Snake-Eyes’ history. Well, not quite, but it has similarities. Good enough? Let’s try and keep talking about the live action movies to a minimum…
Moving on to #42, everybody’s favorite redhead, Scarlett.
Are you here yet or still staring at that fine piece of ass above? Okay scroll back up and look again. I won’t judge you.
Scarlett was the first female G.I.Joe (not counting Jane :-)). Her first assignment on the G.I. Joe team was as hand-to-hand combat trainer. During these exercises, she defeated most of the team’s members, even Snake-Eyes though he had allowed her to beat him, allowing her to keep her dignity and respect with the other Joes. Scarlett was intrigued by this, and they became very close friends, lovers maybe?
On a rescue op for George Strawhacker, the helicopter transporting Scarlett and the team crashed. Scarlett got stuck with her web gear and ordered the rest of them to jump and save themselves. Snake-Eyes couldn’t leave and saved her, getting severely injured himself. Scarred for life and with cut vocal cords making it impossible for him to speak again, Snake-Eyes and Scarlett grew even closer together.
Scarlett is one of the central figures in the phenomenal Silent Issue #21. She is captured by Cobra and is rescued by Snake-Eyes. Truth be told, she had beaten Storm Shadow by then and was already on her way out when Snake-Eyes dropped in, but hey, he did save her from a sword flung at her. I wouldn’t go as far as calling the triangle Scarlett, Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow, a menage-a-trois, but they certainly have a special bond.
A figure of Scarlett has been released 14 times. This in contrast to Snake-Eyes that exists in 68 different versions. It took 13 years for Scarlett to get a second version. This was during the 1993 Ninja Force run where bright colors were standard. I’m very happy to have this figure MOC in my collection! In 2003, she was finally released with Snake-Eyes into a two-pack, although she was then called Agent Scarlett. Never really got the name changes Hasbro did, I know it’s about rights and trademarks, but I keep finding it strange that you wouldn’t have these covered as a big company.
Anyway, enough about Scarlett, on to #43, Grunt.
Grunt is a typical Green Shirt (as far as I’m concerned, sorry if I offended any die-hard Grunt fans). He infiltrates the Wingfield compound together with Hawk (one of the best stories if you ask me). Later on in the ARAH run, he returns to civilian life. Other than that, I can’t remember him.
I was surprised to see that there are 14 different figures released of Grunt. That’s just as much as our redheaded beauty got, and let’s face it, she is higher up the Joe food chain than Grunt.
Grunt was one of three G.I. Joe characters who stayed in the alternate dimension in which Cobra controlled Earth. Watch Worlds Without End again, it’s the best of the cartoon series if you ask me.
Next up is #44, Flash.
Flash is a Green Shirt too, but then … well, flashy. His red padding really makes him stand out between the likes of Grunt, Breaker and Zap. Unfortunately, the character isn’t overly used in the comics. In issue #1, he gets to show off his surgical precision when he cuts the steel casing from a cable without damaging the cable. Other than that, he’s not very prominently present. There is a Classified File showing him peeling a whole lot of potatoes…
In the cartoons, regular rifles were replaced by lasers, so having a specialty in lasers suddenly isn’t very special anymore. His redundancy is made painfully clear when he even couldn’t cut through an S.N.A.K.E. robot. Snake-Eyes had to save the day then.
As far as figures go, 6 versions of Flash have been released. There’s a Marvel hero running around somewhere called Flash and so Hasbro had to change his code name. They really put a lot of effort into it and after months of study and discussion, they came up with … Sgt. Flash! Right, moving on. The characteristic green and red have been used for most of the figures. In 2005, Flash was released in a 3-pack with Rock ‘N Roll and Short-Fuze. This version was white and looked more like an astronaut than a soldier. The 2009 version (Rise of Cobra), used a lot of black and some red. He’s one of those figures released, that didn’t appear in the movie. But it’s a good looking figure if you ask me.
We’ve arrived at #45, surf’s up with Rock ‘N Roll.
The bearded machine gunner drove the R.A.M. cycle during the Burkhart rescue and has always been around to deliver heavy weapons fire as support for the other Joes.
As a figure, there have been 12 versions of Rock ‘N Roll. Being named Rock ‘N Roll, Rock & Roll, Sgt. Rock ‘N Roll and eventually a new character Bench-Press. My favorite one – and I’m guessing most collectors like this one – is the second version from 1989 with the 2 Gatling guns and ammo-feeding backpack. This look is more iconic for Rock ‘N Roll than any other version. The 1991 Super Sonic repaint, gave him orange accents and just didn’t do justice to the mold. After that, he joined the Star Brigade and this again is a great figure. The blue and gray are ‘realistic’ colors and contrasting with the blond hair and beard ensure the figure is locked in memory. The 1997 and 2001 versions show him without a beard, and best be forgotten…
I’m pretty sure that he was present in the cartoons as well, just not that I can remember. I guess the blue and red lasers didn’t leave much room for a heavy gunner.
The next original Joe is Short-Fuze, card #46.
I’ve got nothing… I know I’ve been typing away longer than the average post, but it’s not writer’s block or anything like that. I just have nothing to say about Short-Fuze. He’s one of the original Joes, but other than that, I’m drawing a blank here.
There have been 7 figures released and I have to say I don’t have any of those in my collection. I guess Short-Fuze is not the most memorable character in the Joeverse.
On to bigger and better with card #47, Stalker.
Stalker was the leader of a Detroit street gang before he joined the army and was sent off with Storm Shadow, Snake-Eyes, Wade Collins, Dickie Saperstein and Ramon Escobedo to be an LLRP. After their tour, Stalker is the only one to stay in the army. Ramon and Dickie were KIA, Wade was a POW but presumed dead as well, Stormy and Snake-Eyes went to Japan. Years later, when Hawk is building the Joe team, Stalker is initially his second in command and recruits Snake-Eyes straight out of his cabin in the High-Sierras.
Stalker was present in a lot of missions. One that stands out in all of this, is the one where he is captured in Borovia with Snow Job and Quick-Kick. Outback, the fourth man on their team, was able to escape and warns the Joes. Scarlett and Snake-Eyes then fake their death in order to rescue them from the prison camp they were sent to. We get introduced to Magda and the White Clown during this rescue op.
22 versions of Stalker have been released as figures. The 1992 Tundra version with the white kayak is how I remember him best, not having read the comics as a kid. All other versions show him with a beret. In 2002, the figure was renamed to Sgt. Stalker.
My best recollection of Stalker is however as a 12″ version, the 1992 Hall of Fame Stalker. I don’t remember how or why, but I got four 12″ figures as a gift from my parents. I haven’t ever seen these in the stores around here nor on flea markets or in second-hand stores. But I have Snake-Eyes, Duke, Stalker and Cobra Commander from the 12″ Hall of Fame collection. Naturally, they were played with a lot, together with the 12″ Action Man dolls that were popular around here back then. I’ll have to look through the attic at my parents’ house to find the accessories for these, they have to be there somewhere (I hope).
Going over YoJoe for research on this, I noticed there was actually a version of Short-Fuze released as well in 2009. So I do have something to say about him after all 🙂
On to #48, Clutch.
Not the purse, but the first designated Joe vehicle driver. He was responsible for saving the team after evading capture from a Cobra soldier and stealing his uniform during the team’s first encounter with the Oktober Guard. He also rammed the parade’s reviewing stands and revealed a hidden Cobra control room under the stands while the Joe’s were in a parade on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Following a major Cobra assault on The Pit, Clutch went on leave to his home town. Once there, he discovered Cobra was infiltrating the town. He saved the town, with some help from the Joe team. Clutch was also part of the team that briefly captured Cobra Commander.
The most powerful memory I have on Clutch is from one of the Special Missions. Clutch leads a small group of Joes into Argentina to assist a former Nazi who claims to know the location of a crashed bomber filled with poison gas. Clutch remembers the horrors his grandmother had gone through at the hands of the Nazi’s as a young Jewish woman in Germany. The team protected the Nazi doctor Otto while another team finds and neutralizes the gas, having a small skirmish with some Cobras. They learn that the pilot (the Nazi in Argentina) had lied and stolen gold, killing the planes’ crew. Clutch told the Nazi that the deal was off. While the Joe’s do protect the man from the Israelis(the Mossad was there), they left the man in the hands of the other Nazi’s that now knew of his betrayal. While leaving, the Joes hear three gunshots from inside the home, but just keep on walking.
There have been 11 figures of Clutch released (including the ones called Double Clutch) over the years. The first figure being exclusively packed with the VAMP. Looking at all of them, the 1993 version obviously stands out being bright orange while the other versions all used more subdued colors (olive green, tan, gray). I only have the 2003 Double Clutch figure that was released with the Desert Coyote as part of the Valor vs Venom line.
In World’s Without End, Clutch stays with Grunt and one other Joe in the alternate universe (since their counterparts were killed by Cobra).
Next up on the original Joe lineup, is #49 Steeler.
The strange thing with Steeler is that I remember his real name better than his character. That’s mainly because of the Dr. Pulaski that appeared in Star Trek TNG.
Steeler, along with Breaker and Clutch, drove the MOBAT tank in the Armed Forces Day in New York city when Cobra attacked and tried to steal the tank. The three Joes defeated Cobra despite the fact that they had no live ammunition, and they nearly captured Cobra Commander.
Sadly that’s about all I got on Steeler. Like Short Fuze, he’s one of those characters that is easily forgotten.
There have been 8 versions of the Steeler figure. The first version came packed with the MOBAT. Unlike Clutch, the colors for Steeler all remained green-tan like and never really did stand out. I scored the v4 from 2008 last year on F.A.C.T.S. (our Belgian version of Comic Con), MISB together with the Armadillo tank and Serpentor with his air chariot.
The World’s Without End cartoon give a lot more attention to Steeler. In the alternate universe, his counterpart has died but was romantically involved with the (good girl) Baroness. Steeler, Clutch, and Grunt elected to stay in the alternate reality in order to re-build G.I. Joe.
And so we have reached #50,
Grand Slam is the 12th character of the original 13. And again, this is a character I don’t know much about. He played a role in many of the Joes’ most important early missions, including the rescue of Dr. Adele Burkhart.
After a battle in Washington Major Bludd was on the run from the Joes, pursued by Grand Slam and Stalker on the RAM motorcycle. Bludd hijacked a civilian bus to try and escape. Grand Slam climbed onto the moving bus, swung down from the roof, through the window and knocked Bludd to the ground. Grand Slam walked away from the fight without a scratch while Major Bludd ended up in the hospital. Later on, Grand Slam disappeared from the main stage.
His figure was first released exclusively with the Heavy Artillery Laser (HAL). He was one of the more colorful Joes from ’82, showing some orange-red padded details on his uniform. After that, another 8 figures were released. The 1983 version, used the same mold, but was painted green and gray, and was released with the JUMP Jet Pack. The most recent release came in 2014 from the Collector’s Club’s FSS.
I don’t have any version of Grand Slam in my collection. If you wish to donate to my collection, leave a like or comment below and we’ll get in touch 🙂
What comes after 50 you ask? Well, in this case, we have #53, since the people from Impel dropped 2 Cobra’s in the mix (don’t worry, I’m not excluding these, I’ll post about them next time).
Card #53 is General Clayton “Hawk” Abernathy.
The fearless leader of the Joe team, shown here with blond hair, but the uniform is that of the 1986 figure (which had brown hair). Hawk is the kind of leader that leads on the field and not from a safe distance. As Colonel, but field commander, he joins the Joes in battle more often than not. He even goes undercover in the Wingfield camp. After the death of General Flagg, Hawk succeeds him as the Joe’s commanding officer. Operations at the Pit keep him busy so he had to relegate field command to Duke. Eventually, Hawk is promoted to general and takes full command.
A brilliant story element from the mastermind of Mr. Larry Hama is the fact that Hawk was the lieutenant charged with the task to go and tell Snake Eyes that his parents and twin sister had died. This simple plot, shows how greatly the Hamaverse is connected to it’s characters.
There are 21 figures of Hawk released, and my all time favorite is the 1991 version. I had seen (very little) of the cartoons, but I couldn’t find the 1986 version of the General anywhere (kids, this was before the internet…). When I got the ’91 figure as a kid, I finally had the real Joe leader for my troops. The fact that he wore a gold space suit and came with a jet pack that had moveable wings and voice-controlled rockets (how else would he shoot them?), clearly made him the leader in my 9-year-old brain. A close second for me is the 1986 version or the 2009 remake of that look. Camo pants, leather jacket (Indiana who?), a helmet, gun strapped to the chest. This guy means serious business.
He was introduced in the second season of the cartoons. For once, I’d like to go into the live action movies. Sure, they’re not what any of the fans expected, but as Action movies go, they’re watchable. I think that General Hawk is portrayed well in the movies, he’s joining the action, but not as dominant as in the comics. He is the leader but cares for his soldiers.
I think it’s about time to end this HUGE post. It took some time to write this up as I am recovering from a back injury which makes it hard for me to sit up straight at my desk and type this up. If you made it this far, let me thank you for taking the time to read this and please like or comment, follow the blog for more and share with your friends. It has been a challenge sometimes to keep writing these pieces, but the interaction from you and the followers on Twitter and Instagram are mainly positive and keep me motivated to continue writing and collecting.
Thank you for reading, happy collecting, and YoJoe!
P.S. The next post will be about #51-52, 2 Troop Builders if ever you saw any. Stay tuned.