Tunnel Rat, General Abernathy, Flint
I’m still puzzled by Hasbro’s line of reasoning when it comes to comic packs. Frequently, the packs don’t feature the characters that are on the cover of the included comic or even characters that are used prominently in the issue. However, the comic pack series has accomplished two important goals in the eyes of Joe fans. First, it has allowed collectors to obtain reissues of classic characters with (usually) superior head sculpts. Secondly, it has made it possible for fans to revisit some classic comic book issues (and even obtain a “reading copy”) that have been previously unavailable in trade paperback from. Comic Pack #76 concludes the main action of the Cobra Civil War and gives collectors a chance to become reacquainted with three old friends… with mixed results.
If ever there was a figure that did not need a comic pack update, it’s Tunnel Rat. The original RAH figure was pretty much perfect in every way and the subsequent stream of repaints make it possible for just about anyone to either buy or build their ideal color scheme. When you consider that the original figure was also an homage to GIJoe creator Larry Hama, you end up with a figure that should have been left well enough alone. It’s not like we’ve seen Tunnel Rat’s RAH sculpt in two recent six packs either. (Night Force or Desert Patrol anyone?) Of all of the Joes featured in the Cobra Civil War issues, I’m still at a loss as to why Tunnel Rat was chosen for the comic pack treatment. This comic pack version actually sports a weaker color scheme than the original figure. Whereas the RAH version was clad in darker colors – black pants and an olive shirt with black bandana—the comic release decided to “lighten the mood a bit”. Now, Nicky Lee is wearing a lime-green shirt, green pants, and light gray shoes and bandana. It’s almost as if someone dug up Mr. Green Jeans from the old Kaptain Kangaroo television series and slapped an ammo belt across his chest. (Bob Keeshan must be rolling in his grave right now.) Pretty much every single color that could have been made lighter on this figure was and the result is pretty lackluster at best. To top it off, the camo paint that covered the bare arms of the RAH version is now missing! So, we’ve got a Tunnel Rat that is easier spot in brighter colors—that’s a great idea! Why not just paint a big bulls eye across his chest and get it over with.
If the body colors on Tunnel Rat are bad, then the head is simply atrocious. It’s almost as if the sculptors didn’t even look at either the comic or the original figure source material before rendering this one. Sporting a brand new head, Tunnel Rat is now much lankier than he ever way back in RAH. The new figure has a neck than even a giraffe would be envious of, enabling him to eat all of the succulent leaves from the top branches. Seriously, this head fits more like a bad custom than an actual Hasbro-released product. However the neck is just the least of his worries. The original Tunnel Rat had black paint stripes across his face to help with his camouflage. They also provided a necessary color contrast to the overall head design. This new figure features a light olive drab face paint and the end result is that “lil Nicky” didn’t want to eat his strained peas. Seriously, it looks like he just smeared pea soup across his face and then showed up for morning revelry. Whereas the original figure had a bit of attitude in his facial expression, this one could give Ben Stein a run for his money in the bland department. So, bad colors, and an elongated neck make this possibly the worst Tunnel Rat figure I’ve yet seen—behind even the “too tall” Spy Troops version. I’d consider this figure a complete waste of plastic but that would be too kind.
I have a confession to make—I NEVER liked the first “General Hawk” action figure. (Otherwise known as Hawk v2.) Call me crazy but, while he had a terrific sculpt, the colors were too dark and I never really like his whole switch from blonde to brunette. (I realize that this was done so that kids could tell him and Duke apart but it never really worked for me, even as a child.) It also felt weird that Hawk was suddenly bumped up to General. Regardless, the figure never really got much play in my universe as it never made sense to have the commanding General running around the battlefield. With that rather rambling disclaimer out of the way, I haven’t been this happy with a Hawk figure since the “General Tomahawk” Real American Hero Classics figure re-release! The body (torso and waist) comes from the 1986 version of General Hawk while the limbs come from the 1991 version—creating, in my mind, the perfect gestalt Hawk! Not only does this figure body borrow the best parts from two terrific previous releases but it also highlights the tremendous sculpting detail of those figures with a much better color scheme. I’ve ranted again and again about how the lighter color palette of many of the comic pack figures actually hurts the overall impression of the figure. In this case, the complete opposite is true. Just take a look at the leather jacket; the original release was a dark brown which muted all of the sculpted detail. However, the comic pack version is almost a suede tone, which brings out the folds, pockets, and hem of the jacket. The pants, which technically come from two different figures, look terrific in the lighter green camouflage pattern. Now, before this turns into “Queer Eye for the Joe Guy” and we end up giving Hawk a completely new outfit for fashion's sake alone, just look at the comparison shot below and tell me that this figure doesn’t appear to be more detailed than the 1986 version. It actually isn’t, but the color palette used optimizes the figure’s design in such a way that I’ve seldom seen in a comic pack. This figure seems to transcend the comic pack series and just might become my default Hawk figure—it’s just that sharp!
If the figure has one aspect that I’m not entirely certain about yet, it’s the head sculpt. Let me first state that I really love the way that General Hawk was rendered by artist Tim Seeley in the later Devil’s Due GIJoe: A Real American Hero issues. The longer, slicked-back hair worked to show us an older, more seasoned Clayton Abernathy. It’s become the first image to pop into my mind when someone mentions the GIJoe team’s first CO. As such, it’s made judging this sculpt on it’s own merits a bit harder. If we’re going by the source material from the Marvel Comics series, then this head is DEAD ON! From the squared off crew cut to the stern jaw line, this is how I remember Hawk from the comics of my miss-spent youth. There’s cold steel behind the stern gaze in a face that belies both intelligence and hard determination. If it weren’t for the fact that this head could also work for Duke (who seems to be Hawk’s twin when drawn by many artists), this would be Hawk for me. However, that is my own issue and not a detracting factor in the sheer quality of this figure’s design. The only real flaw to be found in this figure is in the fit of the helmet. Maybe I’m missing something, but the good general’s headgear just doesn’t want to sit on his head in any position resembling comfortable or practical. Maybe I’m not familiar enough with this style of helmet but now that the review is done, I’m going to have to get the dremel out and see if I can carve out a little extra for Clayton’s hair. Simple fact: the helmet just doesn’t want to sit on his head, period. So, aside from his rather awkward head covering, this figure is just plain rock solid.
There are several molds from the RAH era that are just considered “classic”—molds that became the definitive version of a particular character right away and were never topped. The original Flint figure is one of those and this comic pack release is possibly the single most faithful re-release of a figure I’ve yet seen. Seriously, this is the figure that I’d recommend to collectors who don’t own an original Flint v1 and don’t want to spend the cash to score a complete vintage model. Aside from the lack of red on the lapels, and the change in the paint color of Dash’s combat harness, this figure is virtually identical to the original. (Forgot to mention the lighter color of the gloves!) In all honesty, I’ve yet to see another comic pack figure that is this close to the original figure. In fact, this release improves on the original figure in one key area—the skin tone. The original RAH figures had a skin tone that was a bit too “pasty white”. It was as if the Joes had spent all of their time standing around in front of that giant monitor screen in the control room watching Sunbow cartoons instead of going outdoors and soaking up a few UV rays. (Of course, they also had a lower occurrence of melanoma.) The newer figure has a much more “red heavy” skin tone—and the result is plastic that looks more like healthy flesh as opposed to peach plastic. Aside from that difference, Officer Faireborn is looking as good as ever!
I’ll be blunt—I was never all that crazy about the original Flint head sculpt. Perhaps it was the exaggerated tilt of the beret, or the overly defined hairline on the side of his head but the figure never jived with my childhood impressions of Flint as either the strong leader of the cartoon or the cocky self-assured womanizer of the comics. It wasn’t a bad head sculpt by any stretch of the imagination but it wasn’t one of the strongest of the RAH line either and it’s one that Flint has been plagued with through countless reissues over the years. When I first heard that Flint was going to be getting comic pack treatment, I was pretty psyched as Officer Faireborn has long overdue for some cranial over-hauling. Honestly, the end result isn’t bad—but it’s not quite what I’d expect from my default Flint figure either. The face is decidedly young, with longish-brown hair, and a hawk-billed nose that evokes memories of Lamont Cranston as “The Shadow”. (Seriously, you could make a terrific custom from this head.) I’ve gone back and checked the figure with both issue #76 as well as some of Flint’s first appearances in the comics—and the resemblance just isn’t quite there. Now, this head has a great sculpt and would work perfect as a Lt. Falcon head but it’s just not the square-jawed charmer that we all think of as Flint. In fact, as I sit here writing this text, I’m looking at the 2003 convention poster featuring Lt. Falcon, Major Storm, and Lady Jaye. You might as why this is important except that this comic pack Flint bears a striking resemblance to the depiction of Lt. Falcon in that very poster, right down to the longish hair over the collar. Had this head been used for Falcon, I’d be 100% happy with it. However, as Flint it’s just not quite up to what I had expected.
This comic pack is a mixed bag for me: one figure is a waste of space in a comic pack, one is terrific, and one is frustrating because it’s almost what I’d hope for in an update. However, don’t let the lackluster Tunnel Rat hold you back from the pack completely. Sure, his colors are awful and he just doesn’t come together as a reissue at all but both of the other figures are pretty much worth owning. General Abernathy works extremely well as an update to the Marvel-era Hawk. Flint features a terrific repaint of the body and a head that I’m still on the fence about—only because it would work better for a different character. Comic Pack #76 really is one of those “the glass is 2/3 full” situations for me. I was able to purchase this before the price increase to $11.99 at HTS so for my initial $9.99 I’m still pretty happy with it. In the end, it’s a set that you’ll want to grab for two of the figures and still have one for custom fodder.