It’s perhaps the greatest thing to ever happen at a urinal. According to Christopher Irving in his blog “The Swivel-Arm Battle Grip Revolution,” pop culture forever changed in the early 1980s during a happenstance meeting of minds while peeing. Marvel’s then-president and Hasbro’s then-president and CEO were discussing business, when the latter mentioned the intention to reactivate G.I.Joe under a new direction. The former then mentioned bringing on his editors to give it a whirl. With a shake and a handshake, toy history was about to be changed forever.
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Marvel’s editor-in-chief at the time, Jim Shooter, would approach editor Larry Hama to transform his “Nick Fury versus HYDRA” comic book idea into what would become the new G.I. Joe. When Hasbro released “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” action figures in 1982, as a relaunch to the original brand from the 1960s and 1970s, and coming on the heels of the popularity of “Star Wars” and “Micronauts,” the toy company had no idea it would become a pop culture phenomena. Original toy production continued through 1994, and emerged again in 1997. While the toy line may be incredible, there have been a handful of figures that made us yell “NO JOE!” What follows is a countdown of some of the worst figures ever produced in the epic toyline.
15. WILLIAM “THE FRIDGE” PERRY
Remember that time the Super Bowl Shuffle took out Zartan and Dr. Mindbender? Us neither. William “The Fridge” Perry was an exclusive mail-order offer from Hasbro Direct between 1987 and 1989. Just what the Joes needed — a Chicago Bears football player to show them how to tackle a Viper. This was the best they could come up with? When you read his file card that states, “Using The Fridge to train the Joes is logical and practical,” you can’t help but furrow your brow. At least Pele could have teamed up with Quick Kick for one dope duo.
And what’s with the menacing (deadly?) football on the end of a chain? Who brings a football flail to a laser gun fight? All “The Fridge” had going for him was a kind of decent code name and a very patriotic No. 72 jersey. Call us when you can intercept a missile with your bare hands and then we’ll talk about putting “The Fridge” on the front line, and not on the worst figures list.
If you once said to yourself, “You know what I need as a figure in my collection? A drug dealer,” then look no further than the shady-looking Headman, who battled the G.I. Joe Drug Elimination Force. The makers of this figure threw in all the standard sleazy early ’90s big-time drug dealer looks when it was released in 1992. Pompous pimp hat? Check. Smarmy goatee? Check. Ponytail? Yup. Black suit with gold pinstripes? He’s got ’em. Just to make him not stand out, let’s slap on a Zorro mask and give him a gold machine gun and, heck, why not, a gold missile. D.A.R.E. to be stupid.
And it didn’t stop there: Hasbro gave us a second variant Headman complete with a tan jumpsuit, er, we mean, pants and shoes. Fun fact: Headman was the only confirmed death in the DiC animated series, self-destructing his base after his plan of overdosing the Joes with massive amounts of drugs backfired on him. This figure should be thrown away and avoided, much like a doobie on a city sidewalk.
When he was released as a toy in 1989 and premiered the same year in the comics, Darklon was marketed as Destro’s cousin and ruler of his own country, creatively called Darklonia. Unfortunately, Darklon wasn’t an awesome cousin, in the vein of Roadblock to Heavy Duty. He was more like a Cousin Oliver. When you’re a member of the Destro clan, you need to be menacing. Of course, you also must have a badass steel mask and outfit, which Laird James McCullen Destro XXIV has locked down.
Apparently, though, nothing is more menacing than hippie earth tones of forest green and dirt brown. Let’s throw in a walrus-looking mask for good measure, too. We mean, just look at that color scheme — the figure looks ridiculous. At first, you’d think his torso was painted green, but that’s a shirt. And hey, let’s not forget that stylishly bulky grenade ankle bracelet to boot. Because why not!?
How can you have sweet job titles of “Criminal Termination” and “Outlaw Incarceration” and look like some neon oversized Robocop on steroids? Why do you look like a voodoo priest shrunk your head? Are you wearing half a Destro mask? Robo-J.O.E. was released in 1993 as part of the line’s “Star Brigade: Armor Tech” division. His background, according to his file card, was that Destro broke into his engineering lab and killed him, and then the Joes said, “We can rebuild him,” and went all “The Six Million Dollar Man” on him.
This figure was burdened by limited articulation, which stinks, because Hasbro gave him every weapon possible: a rifle, a shotgun, a machine gun, a machete and a missile launcher. With an outfit like that, you should be deep sea diving for Titanic artifacts, not being some tech for the Star Brigade. It’s no surprise that Hasbro said, “Meh,” and discontinued the figure after one year. He wasn’t even good enough to have action in the comics, appearing merely on the cover of the Devil’s Due comic “G.I. Joe: America’s Elite” #25.
Talk about SIMPLE. Grunt was as simple as they come. (Sorry, Mr. Hama.) He put the “basic” in “basic training,” despite being one of the original Real American Hero figures released in 1982 and debuting in the #1 issue of G.I. Joe. Grunt is as drab and standard issue as the uniform he’s wearing. This could have been re-marketed as the army version of Forrest Gump. Nothing about this guy shouts “Yo Joe,” from his drab green gear with a ho-hum look and mopey straight arms.
Instead, his design made him look like his special feature was “24/7 Mopey Mode.” Hasbro then said, “We should totally revamp Grunt,” and then they released him in the awesome vibrant beige! What an improvement! When we played with this figure in our innocent youth, Grunt was the first casualty of war. If you were looking to firecracker a figure, Grunt would be the first to go.
At first, most of you are like, what’s a Dial-Tone? Well, kids, back in the day, we used a landline to talk to people. We knew a call out was possible –or if someone hung up on us — through the sound of a dial tone. Does Dial-Tone stand the test of time? We’d say he’s as antiquated as rotary telephones. Bro, you’re carrying a giant radio scrambler communications backpack, can you even run?
And is it us, or is the whole mustache and beret scheme just condescending? You’re an Italian from Oregon, Morelli, not Flavien from Normandy. We digress: Dial-Tone seems like the type of Joe that could do his job from behind a desk. He’s the G.I. Joe nerd, transmitting signals and intercepting beacons. After debuting in 1986, Dial-Tone, sadly, was discontinued two years later.
Hey, look, the G.I. Joe’s own janitor! Clean-Sweep’s specialty must be Custodial Arts and Waste Management. That makes sense why he looks like every firefighter, anywhere. Clean-Sweep’s look was a Springfield Nuclear Plant-ish neon (radioactive?) yellow and green suit, with the head of the security guard from “Terminator 2.” At first glance, he looks like a poor man’s Ray Stanz from “The Real Ghostbusters” (both of them even deal with slime in their own respective ways).
The figure was released in 1991, as part of the line’s “Eco-Warriors” figures. Clean-Sweep’s job was to basically to get rid of chemicals, like some enlisted Mr. Clean. Similar to how Zarana’s skin changed color in sunlight, Clean-Sweep’s suit would change color with water, to simulate battle damage… or to identify contamination, you know, one or the other. Like the old custodian at your high school, Clean-Sweep was the last to be picked when it came time to divvy up your figures to battle with your friends. And that’s why he belongs in the dustpan.
8. CAPT. GRID-IRON
As if one football-themed figure on this list wasn’t enough, now we have another one. From his name to his look, Capt. Grid-Iron loved football. To us, he’s a soldier with a complex — a former football player past his prime who just cannot let go of the game. We get it — you were quarterback of the West Point football team, and you throw football grenades. That’s cool, it’s a totally transferable skill.
Of course, this dude may be a little unhinged, like Murdoch meets Tackleberry. The worst part about it is that even the G.I. Joe’s couldn’t stand this guy, according to his file card. He’s the annoying dude who does bad John Wayne impressions, just to get you to like him. Grid-Iron is equivalent to the friend that your friend brings out to the bar once in a while, who gets wasted, makes terrible jokes, hits on your girlfriend and ends up blitzed and falling on a beer-soaked bathroom floor. Get it together, Grid-Iron! Jeez.
Nothing says “1990s” like a VHS tape and a bright neon green action figure. And what do you think is the most ironic (read: moronic) part about Rapid-Fire and his video cassette tape? He’s not even on it. The tape contained a free DiC cartoon episode titled “Revenge of the Pharaohs,” where a Night Creeper fights within himself to discover if he is a descendant of Egyptian royalty. It literally had nothing to do with Rapid-Fire.
According to his file card, Rapid-Fire, released in 1990, is named Robbie London, which was a tribute to a DiC animator. We don’t know about you, but it’d be much cooler to have an actual figure modelled after you, not just give it your name. Plus, we’d rather have our names attached to a figure who would be less obscure than this one. Rapid-Fire’s specialty was Fast Attack Expert, as he taught maneuvers that were quick and precise. Alas, the only quick motion we wanted to do in regard to Rapid-Fire is fast-forward through to the end of his tape… and his career as a G.I. Joe!
Released in 1990, the parachutist Altitude was not the most exciting of G.I. Joe figures, as there wasn’t a pressing need to call dibs on the sky recon scout. Furthermore, the guy was a combat artist. No, we don’t mean that he was an artist of deadly maneuvers: he quite literally drew sketches of battles, like some modern-day Winslow Homer or the guy who draws those courtroom scenes. You don’t ride the bench much harder than that!
Altitude, aka John Edward O. Jones, was also the third Native American G.I. Joe, which was great! Hasbro also made another Native American parachutist for the Joes by the name of Airborne, who was a much better character AND figure than this one, making Altitude feel pretty redundant. Altitude did come with a real working parachute, which would have been cool… but it rarely opened correctly, namely because it was wrapped up and tucked into a backpack. Ironically, this figure was just dead weight.
A video camera doesn’t make a great weapon; this is common knowledge. However, for some reason, in 1989, Hasbro designed a journalist army figure, which is a prime necessity in the face of battle. Couldn’t this guy just stay back at the base with Dial-Tone? Apparently, in the Marvel Comics, Scoop was chosen by the government to record and otherwise report on the G.I. Joes and their activity to Congress. In battle, wouldn’t you rather have a soldier fighting alongside you than one filming you getting that new flesh wound?
Scoop was worthless in the comics and in the cartoon series. On top of being a government snitch, Scoop, in the comics, fell asleep during a stakeout and woke up just in time to notify the team of Cobra’s movements. He would later pass out during the ensuing battle and lose his camera, the one thing he needed to do his job. In the cartoon, Scoop began as a Crimson Guard, but later defected to the Joes. We have some Breaking News: Scoop — Snitch, Spy, Stupid Figure.
Hey Banzai, Vega from “Street Fighter” called, he wants his look back! Banzai looks like he should be at ill-fated music venue, CBGBs, fronting his new wave/punk`80s band rather than being a nunchaku master in the 1993 G.I. Joe Ninja Force series. Are we to be intimidated by you coming at us with no shirt? Are those weapons magenta? Hot pink? The element of surprise for Cobra you have not. Ninjitsu and neon pink don’t mix; it’s a Kung Faux pas.
Banzai was too flamboyant to be considered a serious member of the ninjas in the series, like Quick Kick, Bushido, Budo and Jinx. This guy’s whole look screams WWE. He already has a finisher… er, “special move,” according to his card. It’s called the Suzushi Slam. That’s a wrestling finisher name if we’ve ever heard one.
Alright. Enough already with the neon and the bright colors. To make matters worse, Dee-Jay, as his name subtly implies, is a Disc Jockey (or, “DJ” in the vernacular) that became a G.I. Joe, fist bumping on the front line and dropping both bombs and beats, presumably. It’s like if Pauly from “Jersey Shore” was an action figure! Dee-Jay debuted as a figure in 1989 as part of the “Battle Force 2000” line, but his outfit looked more like he was a reject from a sci-fi pulp novel cover.
To his credit, Dee-Jay had the ability to take anything “loaded with transistors” and “portable” and “coax strange sounds out of it with an infectious beat,” according to his file card. You know what’s missing in battle with Cobra? Club music. The new Duran Duran remix goes great with sneaking up on the enemy. Get this: Dee-Jay was so unpopular, he debuted and was killed off in the same comic: “G.I. Joe” #13.
2. CRYSTAL BALL
It’s the worst G.I.Joe figures list, starring Vincent Price as Crystal Ball! No, not really, it just must be the look of his face, and totally not because he strikes fear in the hearts of, well, anyone. Crystal Ball was a Cobra hypnotist and possibly the worst figure in the Cobra line. He’s also the only figure to show off his chest, like some weirdo version of Star Trek’s Khan, and sport a hairstyle not unlike Pauly Walnuts from “The Sopranos.” Is this a Cobra enemy or your friend’s Uncle Sal?
Crystal Ball debuted in stores in 1987 and was most likely still there, gathering dust, in 1991. He was created by novelist Stephen King and his son, Owen, who told Hasbro, “You know what’s missing on Cobra? A magician.” According to his file card — also written by the Kings — Crystal Ball is the lovechild of a psychic Romanian and a lady from Bangor, ME, because that stuff happens, and because it’s Stephen King and that dude loves Maine. The figure never appeared on the cartoon and was in only one issue under Marvel Comics.
1. ICE CREAM SOLDIER
Where do you even begin with this one? First, his name is awful. Is he literally fighting for (or with) ice cream? Second, he’s just another Barbecue. What is “Ice Cream Soldier” supposed to mean, and how would it strike fear into an enemy? Does he throw banana cream pies at people? Was it named by a toddler? We bet good money the person who named this figure was probably fired. The most ironic part? He uses a flamethrower as his main weapon… although that does support our theory that he has a vendetta against ice cream.
The figure signaled the end of an era for Hasbro and fans alike. A ridiculous figure, in ridiculous bright ketchup and mustard colors, with a ridiculous name that made no sense, Ice Cream Soldier was released and discontinued in 1994, one of 13 figures in the “Battle Corps” series. He was resurrected and subsequently became more popular as the Cobra figure Shock Viper. The Ice Cream Man is guaranteed to satisfy; the Ice Cream Soldier? Yeah… not so much.
Who do you think was the worst G.I. Joe action figure? Let us know in the comments!
* Special thanks to the following sites for images: HISSTank.com, MyGenerationtoys.com, JoeADay.com, NonSportCollectibles.com, TeraPeak.com and GeekTyrant.com