Review & pics by: Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary
G.I. Joe Flamethrower - Code name: Blowtorch
Sigh… sometimes it’s hard to write a review. I’m not referring to act of putting fingers to keyboard and crafting sentences that describe the aspects of a various action figure in such a fashion as to prove insightful to readers. No, when I say “sometimes it’s hard to write a review” I’m referring to the very act of being excited enough about a particular product to want to talk about its merits as well as aspects that could be improved for future releases. The reason for this bought of malaise is actually quite simple—and it ties into an old adage: “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” If something never goes away it becomes easy to take it for granted and even harder to generate any sort of enthusiasm for its existence. Sadly, such is the case with the Swamp Steam Blowtorch.
In 2008 I took a bit of a sabbatical from being an active participant in the online G.I. Joe fandom. Much of this was due to the oversaturation of 25th Anniversary product in the retail market at the time. Joe fans were being inundated with wave after wave of figures—many built entirely out of previously-released parts. It was 2008 wave 5 that proved to be my final wave of reviewed figures for a period of nearly five years. As such, I missed out on reviewing the initial 25th Anniversary release of Blowtorch, a figure that had been a fan-favorite of mine since I was a kid. However, since that time I’ve seen no shortage of releases for the character in both the Pursuit of Cobra and 50th Anniversary lines as well as a repainted version as TNT in the Collector’s Club Figure Subscription service. My local Toys R Us store had, until very recently, an ample supply of both the PoC and the 50th versions in stock.
Now here we are again—another release of Blowtorch, with only the color scheme differentiating him from his predecessors.
It’s very hard to get excited about that.
So, I’m going to forgo the usual review format at JBL and talk about what makes this figure different. Every other aspect of this figure is identical to last year’s release so I’ll link over to the Heated Battle Blowtorch review for a discussion of the figure’s construction and accessories.
Back in 2011, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club unveiled a picture in their newsletter of what would have been two final Pursuit of Cobra figures. Each sported a new deco but were essentially straight repaints of previously released figures. Neither of these pieces, however, were released and so the “if I can’t have it I immediately want it” paradigm went into play with hard-core collectors scouring the Asian markets for a chance to own a carded sample of either of the repainted Blowtorch or Croc Master figures.
Clad in a tannish-yellow and olive, this version of Blowtorch seems to be based on a piece of original character concept art that has been circulating around the internet for the past few years, shared sparingly in secret fan circles until an image was shared on the HISSTank.com forums. (A simply Google search produced the image shared in this review.) It’s a good look for Blowtorch—one that’s infinitely more tactical than the garish red and yellow hues that have been his signature since his original release back in 1984. In fact, had this been the Blowtorch released last year I think fans would have been giddy with excitement over Timothy P. Hanrahan’s final release being something new and different.
Notice how I put that? His “final release”? “Released last year”?
As nice as this color scheme is—it doesn’t quite take away from the fact that this is the same Blowtorch figure that has been made available three times previously in a nearly identical color scheme. (Four if you count the Club’s TNT figure—yet another piece that I’ve got to actually sit down and write a review for.) Call it “malaise” or call it “mold fatigue” or just “crotchety old fan syndrome” but I find it very hard to get excited about this figure. I want to be excited about it—especially with the different color palate but I honestly just can’t build up the energy for yet another Blowtorch figure. The last few years have taken any enthusiasm I may have had for the character and utterly squeeze ever last ounce of energy away. All that’s left is another figure that I’ve got to find a place for in the collection—but not one that I’m terribly interested in.
Sorry Joe fans—this review is a bit of a downer. It’s less of an actual review of the figure and more of a commentary on just how much “re-release fatigue” can take a good figure and utterly kill any excitement that fans may have had for it. As a kid I loved Blowtorch and I even found myself liking the 25 th and PoC releases of the character. For whatever reason, I just can’t bring myself to care this time and that’s a truly sad state of affairs. The character and the figure deserve better than this. Heck, the fandom deserves better than this but for once I’m hard-pressed to truly wax poetic about the figure’s redeeming qualities. It’s the same Blowtorch as last year—just in a more tactical color scheme. If you’re a completionist or someone who was disappointed that this figure was cancelled then take this opportunity to snag him right away. However, I feel that there are probably a great many Joe fans out there who just don’t care about this release one iota. For those fans, you can safely skip this one and live a full and happy life. Of course, that’s just this Joe fan’s opinion.
The Bottom Line: A brand new color scheme based on the original concept art on the fourth straight re-release of a classic 1984 character. Not essential for every collection.
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