If you say nothing else about the GIJoe team during the RAH series, you can certainly say that it had its share of specialists. From the mountain peak, to the arctic tundra, to the blistering desert, to the darkest jungles there was always a Joe who felt at home. In some cases the specializations were the result of extensive training by the armed forces. In others, it was as a response to the environment that the Joe grew up in. You could take an Army Ranger and toss him into a swamp and he’d get along just fine, but you could take a Cajun-born Ranger, toss him into that same swamp and five minutes later Muskrat would be the king of all he surveyed.
Muskrat is one of those Joes that I never owned as a young wide-eyed Joe fan back in the 80’s. He had the misfortune of being released at the time that I was no longer buying figures, which is a shame because he’s really pretty terrific. Like many of the other figures from this era, there’s not a lot of extraneous detail to Muskrat. Everything on his uniform has a purpose—which makes sense for an Army Ranger who specializes in swamp environments. Comprised of a green vest, BDU pants, and boots, Muskrat is a “no frills” soldier and yet it is this practical simplicity that makes him so appealing. In fact, the vest features some of the most elaborate sculpting I’ve seen on a Joe from this era. A great example of this is the sheathed knife on his right side—closer inspection reveals three rounds of ammunition molded onto the bladed weapon’s covering. On his left shoulder are a holstered revolver, under-arm utility pouch, and a shoulder-mounted radio. On the right is what appears to be a small utility light with the cord disappearing into the vest over his shoulder. Perhaps the utility pouch on his left side holds a small radio and battery pack—perhaps not. Either way this detail gives the impression of a soldier who likes to keep his hands free of extraneous gear when on a mission. His radio set to “vox”, his utility light turned on, Muskrat has both hands free to deal with any Cobra snakes that try to sneak up on him! He’s also got molded details on either leg—an empty knife sheath on the right and what appears to be a small re-breather tank on his left. I’m a bit puzzled by this last piece, as I’m not 100% certain how it would fit into his specialty. I can’t imagine a lot of diving taking place in a swamp environment but then again I’m a bit puzzled by his secondary specialty of “social services”. Either way, Muskrat is a figure that is both distinctive and believable in a real-world setting.
It wasn’t until I finally owned a Muskrat figure that I realized just why he looks familiar. It’s the boonie hat that is molded on top of his head that evoked memories of Snake Eyes in his Viet Nam days. Okay, we never really saw SE’s face in any of those flashbacks, but the initial impression is quite similar! In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, aside from the boonie hat, Muskrat’s head sculpt is pretty generic. The expression is decidedly neutral; the jaw line is extremely strong without approaching Sgt. Slaughter territory, and the sculpted hair blends into the neck in a simulated crew cut. The result is a face that indicates a very easy-going person. Drop Muskrat into a nest of Cobra troopers and his response might be: “Shoot, aren’t but twenty of them.” Perhaps I’m reading too much into the character but from his file card text and his head sculpt, I see Muskrat as the type of person that nothing seems to faze. He takes everything in stride and at face value. Some might call his view of the world simple, others naïve, but none can argue with the sheer practicality of the man. As such, I can see him as a character that most Joes want at their backs in a firefight. Sure, he’s the not the dynamic out-going persona that Gung-Ho is, but he’s someone that always lets you know where you stand with him. Perhaps, this is where his “social services” secondary specialty comes in—Muskrat’s nature just might make him an excellent listener and a good judge of character. Of course, that’s just my impression.
Muskrat’s gear is almost as simple and practical as the character himself; he comes equipped with a shotgun, machete, and a “swamp skimmer”. This latter piece of gear resembles a boogie board and has a molded backpack post as well as a foot peg. I’ll be honest—I have no idea what to do with this thing. It’s not as if he can surf the wave in a swamp, nor is it large enough for him to lay on and use a paddled float. As far as this piece of gear is concerned—I’ve got nothing. Heck, I even shot a picture of him standing on the edge of water with it and all I could think of was “how did he get there?” The rest of his gear works just fine although he seems to have bought his machete at the same “baby blue emporium” where Recoil obtained his rifle. It’s just this “swamp skimmer” that leaves me baffled. Someone at Hasbro obviously had an idea in his or her mind regarding its use, but they failed to convey that notion along with the figure.
Okay, so he’s not the most dynamic figure ever created, there’s no denying the practical nature of Muskrat. He’s a Ranger and he’s someone that is completely at home in an environment that might leave other soldiers hesitant. When the Joes go hunting down the Dreadnoks in the Everglades, Muskrat is one of the first to volunteer. I see him as one of the only other Joes that can keep up with Gung-Ho in the bayous as he sees them not as a hostile environment but rather as home. It’s this resilient nature that makes him a must have on any small LLRP inserted into enemy territory. While he may not have the most outrageous gear or specialty, he’s a figure that definitely has found a place in my collection and he’s yet another figure that I can recommend to every Joe fan out there!