Review by Chris Chung & Fred Meyer
Pics by Fred Meyer
 

G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service 3

Point Man – Code Name: Spearhead & Max

G.I. Joe Collector's Club FSS Spearhead & Max

I was always fond of the concept of Spearhead and Max, and as a cat person, this figure offered a feline companion not offered before.  But the vintage offerings were not without flaws.  Spearhead’s deco was obnoxiously bright orange treading dangerously close to DayGlo; I disliked his oddly tall and foreign-looking helmet, his rifle was baffling, he had ammo belt but carried no belt fed weapon, and Max was a poor sculpt, looking more like a large ferret or weasel than a bobcat.  Thus while the figures held promise on paper, in reality they were seldom used because they were so out of place with other figures.  The Night Force version fixed the deco flaws, but not the other factors that still plagued the figure and cat; so once again, these two were relegated to the storage box more often than the battlefield.

What about you Mr. Meyer? 

 It’s funny—Spearhead came onto the scene back when I was getting out of G.I. Joe in favor other interests as I was growing up. However, it was during the “great hiatus” that I discovered the 1988 Spearhead & Max combo as part of the still unfinished ARAH Reviews here at JBL. Personally, I liked the character and the concept but found that the colors burned a hole into my retinas that persists to this day. You should have known  Obamacare wouldn’t cover that.   I warmed up to him but really wished that he had more muted colors. Ironic, eh?

 

The Joe Con Night Force Spearhead was a welcomed addition to the modern line, and it fixed some of the mistakes of the original; the most worthy being a brand new sculpt of Max which finally portrayed an accurate looking bobcat.  While not perfect or exactly to scale, it was a great offering never-the-less.  But now we come to this version.

However, before we begin, readers should know there was some drama with a few of the FSS 3.0 figures, and Spearhead was one of them.  Originally the Club had Spearhead in tan with brown camo, similar to the 1993 Duke’s deco.  Considering we’ll likely never get this version of Duke in modern format so we wouldn’t have gotten any overlap, the change was logical because it fixed the glaring mistake of having a soldier unrealistically hued in neon orange camo, and it modernized him to reflect a more realistic look for 2015, as similar camo patterns are still used.  However a vocal component of the fandom complained that this wasn’t true to the original, and the Club buckled under pressure by saying they’d lighten the brown or make it a more rust color to make him look more like his vintage version.  But as we can see, there were no subtle changes; it was a direct change from brown to orange.   But more on that below.

I sense a rant coming! I wonder if I have time to go make some popcorn and get my snacks lined up as I have the feeling this is going to be a good one!

You do!  We have a few minutes…

 

Parts:

 

Spearhead is a direct repaint of his Night Force counterpart.  While the parts are not wholly accurate to the original vintage version, it’s a decent attempt that still carries forth his unique look into the modern age.  In a smart move, the Club gave him a M-60 machine gun which now makes his ammo belt revenant, though in all honestly, the cartridges are too large (they are more akin to .50 caliber than 7.62mm), and the belt is glued together, not a new piece.  (Hasbro really needs to create a correctly sized belt.)  But regardless, you can take it off if you don’t like it, so it’s not a big deal.  His deco, however, is.

 

 

The pics or color settings on your monitors may not fully show this, but he’s quite orange in person. It’s a matte orange, but still orange.  I’mdisappointed it wasn’t more brown, and I don't necessarily even blame the Club for this.  I more place the blame the people who cannot; for whatever reason, allow this line to evolve. Always "more of the same", always vintage throwbacks, never evolution. Well you know what? It ain't 1988 anymore. And you also know what?  This franchise as a whole is barely viable, and it’s dying a slow decline exactly because a too large portion of this fan base cannot let go of the past or discard tired nostalgia. 

What? This still isn’t 1988? Crap—I need to stop tight-rolling my jeans and figure out what these new-fangled compact discs are! Plus, did you hear that they’re talking about making a movie of Batman without Adam West? Blasphemy! Now where did I put my Sony Walkman and my can of Jolt Cola?

(Off topic, but I remember when the original Jolt recipe tasted like Big Red gum.  Ugh!)

As a point man, Spearhead is first in line and scouts the area for the rest of his unit to safely follow.  He needs to be wary, sneaky, and blend into his environment so he isn’t discovered.  Unfortunately this Spearhead has poor tactical value, and he looks just as ridiculous now as he did before.  Granted this orange isn’t as grotesque as his prior incarnation, but it’s still dumb.  (Really, what imbecile would ever wear orange camo on a battlefield?  Might as well call him “Smearhead”, as his garish deco is a sniper magnet.)

To add a further slight, his elbow and knee pads were not painted, so it furthers harms the figure’s quality.

Wow-- somehow I totally missed that!

While not terrible, I was also concerned with the cream coloration they used on his vest and backpack.  It’s passable, but they should have went darker rather than lighten to reverse the shadowing and overlap the contrasting hues cause. 

Finally, there are some concerns with his head.  First the eyes.  Mine SH’s are slightly skewed, with one eye lager than the other, and a very wide expression that looks almost comical---almost as if it was done deliberately to counter the almost too small, squinting eyes on his Night Force version.  Then, the paint on the hairline wasn’t as neat as it could have been, so he looks like he’s got mange.

Now THERE'S the rant I was waiting for!

Thank you kind sir!

He’s not as bright as I feared he’d be, actually. Granted, he’s not completely earth tone based either but I the longer I own him the more I find that I can actually live with the colors. Is it my preference? Not really but what other choice do I have at this point. I just wish the Club would have stuck to the guns a bit more and not caved in on both Spearhead and Hit & Run while ignoring the controversy over Night Creeper Leader.

At least the eyes are better in this release than they were in the Nocturnal Fire version. (Review coming soon! Really! We're not making this up! Heck, most of the images are already done-- it's just finding time to get some actual writing done!)

 

Max is also highly flawed, and this I do place blame on the Club for this, because no one complained about Max’s deco, yet he was radically changed as well.  His mock up colors were decent, but he too is now tiger orange. Why were his colors changed? I was more excited for this new Max to have improved aesthetics over his Night Force version; and the Club spent a lot of time really detailing Max’s deco, but even this is a bust.  From now on I really think we need to SEE the actual finished product AFTER any tweaks are made, because this is not the figure I paid for, and “Product and colors may vary” is not enough for a misleading change to a advertised figure.  This whole mess is especially frustrating to me, because Spearhead and Max were only a handful of characters that I actually bought this set for.

I guess it’s not easy being cheesy, right Freddie?

Ha! I see what you did there. So much for playing the straight man in this review, eh Chris?

I couldn't resist...

Okay, this is where my real-life job and my hobby life cross. I work in the advertising industry and have quite a few years of marketing experience under my belts. It’s a very bad idea to take people’s money for a product when all that you’ve shown them is a digital mock-up with a disclaimer to the effect that “final product may vary.” Sure, it covers the Club’s keester but from a public relations standpoint it just opens the door to customer service issues. Develop a product, put it out there, and let the consumers voice their approval with their wallets.

And let’s also just clarify this once and for all for anyone who is not versed in business: There is no such thing as a “pre-sell.” A pre-sell is almost always just a fancy, deceptive term for an interest free loan. Instead of the Club taking out several thousands of dollars from the bank and having to pay that back with interest, some or if not all the cost of production is instead paid for with our money so they can avoid interest and keep more capitol for themselves.

Max honestly makes me think that the European Tiger Force Outback's shirt came to life and decided to join up with the Joes!

I really think the pro-orange folks got this one wrong. There was nothing wrong with the Club's original deco for SH and Max. The Club had a perfect balance between a practical update, and maintaining the spirit of the original---but improving it. They tried to make him more realistic and tactical because no one in their right mind would wear neon orange in combat, but the fanatical adherence to a bad idea, even vintage; really dumbed this modern era figure down. At least in my opinion.  (And if you disagree with me, you’re a racist!)

I’m really confused as to why Max had to change colors. Seriously— was he always “Chester Cheetah Orange” and Lt. Falcon stepped in and had him dyed brown? The Nocturnal Fire one was pretty decent in terms of color scheme so why the Club felt the need to release this one in the same color as Orange Tang with a ridiculously heavy white wash I’ll never know. I’ve seen a few bobcats in my day and not a one of them was even close to Max’s color. Of course, none of them were rolled in powdered cheese either so maybe my perspective is a bit limited. Yeah, THAT’s it!

Look on the bright side, at least the card art of Max had correct colors.  That’s at least worth $22.00…

 

Spearhead comes with:

  • Fictional rifle with bayonet and strap
  • M4 Assault Rifle
  • M-60E Machine Gun w/ bipod
  • Helmet
  • Figure Stand
  • Backpack
  • Machete
  • Vest
  • Max the bobcat
  • Ammunition belt
  • Utility belt

 

As mentioned above, Spearhead comes with a lot of gear.  The fictional or possibly 80’s prototype rifle is based on the original figure, but it makes no sense---especially the position of the magazines, so we can discard that straight off.  That leaves an M-60 and an M-4, both respectable weapons.  For a pointman, the M-4 makes more sense.  A machete completes his arms.

The helmet doesn’t stay on as well as I would like, so you may want to swap it out with a different one like the helmet that came with the digital camo version of Retaliation Flint.  (That fits quite well, and gives him a modern look.)  You’ll also have problems keeping his backpack on if you have the ammo belt on.  One will need to go.  In addition, his pants belt is also too loose on the body, and it constantly slides around in both the vertical and horizontal planes, so that’s something else to be aware of.  Finally, due to the packaging and the pre-positioning and rubberbanding of his hand over his machete, Spearhead’s right hand is elongated and stretched out almost to the point of being useless.  It will eventually form back, but again, fans have long been griping about this kind of packaging across all toy lines yet it continues to fall on deaf ears.   

Fred, anything to add?

I like Spearhead as a character but his gear selection frustrates the living daylights out of me for one simple reason: he can’t really hold most of it in a realistic fashion.

That my friend, would be because arms are often not long enough to accommodate butt stocks (or vice-versa), but the more severe culprit are the absolutely mindless ‘J’ grip hands with the thumbs pointing down.  Who the hell thought that was a good idea? 

I keep hearing the argument that G.I. Joe is now a “collector’s only” line to which I reluctantly agree. However if that is indeed the case and this figure was designed not for a happy 9 year old but instead for an adult that’s over 30 then shouldn’t the figure be able to assume a simple two-handed grip on his weapons? It’s possible but good luck getting him to hold any of his weapons up to his shoulder. In the end, I removed the ammunition belt and ditched everything but the M4 which makes more sense given his specialty as “pointman” anyway.

I do miss the vintage figure's blade even if it was a bit Romanesque.

Also, what's up with the rubber bands both in the packaging on the left hand as well as those used to hold the ammunition belt together? The bands on the hand completely warped my figure's hand and the ones on the belt look cheap when compared to the Night Force version which used glue to hold things together.

 

Overall Spearhead isn’t a total wash.  For the most part he is reminiscent of his classic version, so if you want or liked the original, you should be satisfied with this.  However, for those who have more discerning tastes, his deco hampers his aesthetical form and function by making him look too vintage and too “1988 irrelevant” in 2015.  Planned obsolescence to the max.  (No pun intended.)  Spearhead is also an example of hypocritical fanboy nerd rage, as why the venom for a change to Spearhead, but not a change to Vypra; who is greatly changed from her original incarnation?  Unless you're an ardent fan of the original, or one of the folks who raged to get the deco changed, I don't see any reason to spend a lot of money buying this figure, especially if you have the Night Force version.  He’s ok, but certainly not at the “Premium Adult Collectable” level.  The good news is, most of his flaws are easy enough to do with even the barest of customizing skills.  For me personally, the Night Force version is my default, so I may change the paint deco on this, or I may put it on eBay.  I haven’t decided yet.   

This is one of those moments in which I’m pretty torn as there are things that I both like and dislike about this figure. I actually don’t find Spearhead’s colors all that bad while Max is so bright he almost glows in the dark. I love the M4 but really can’t stand the uselessness of the vintage rifle. As such, Spearhead is one of those figures that could really fall into that mid-range of “I like him but he could be better.”

And that is unacceptable.  Things should not have to be better at the cost of these.  But really, who are we kidding?  Rinse and repeat.

Ultimately, it’s the aesthetics that tip the scales for me and I find that I do like Spearhead quite a bit—even if Max is actually a mutant cheese creature akin to “Ice Cream Kitty” from the new TMNT cartoon. With the Night Force version commanding decent prices, the FSS version will end up being the more obtainable version for most fans. He’s faithful to the original for the most part and at the end of the day I do find that he’s worth owning. Of course, that’s just this Joe fan’s opinion.

The Bottom Line: Spearhead’s pretty solid but Max is so bright you’ve got to wear shades! If you don’t already own the Night Force version you’ll want to snag this one for the collection.

   

 

 
Copyright 2003 JoeBattlelines.com