I only ever “lost” one Joe as a child due to excessive damage and that was Grand Slam. Originally packaged with my HAL (Heavy Artillery Laser), I got Grand Slam around the same time that I got my first dog. This dog and I were inseparable from the time she came home, just as my Joes were a constant fixture in my childhood. One night, and I can’t recall why, my parents and I went out for the evening. However, I had been playing GIJoe up until we left and decided to leave my Joe “mid battle” so that I could finish up when we returned. Apparently the action continued without me as I returned home to find that my beloved puppy had sided with Cobra. Grand Slam, the operator of the HAL, was chewed almost beyond recognition. Now, nearly 24 years later, James Barney rejoins my active Joe roster.
Let me just state the obvious: the figure is a complete repaint of the VvV Bazooka figure. Same body, same head, with Rollbar’s helmet and ST Dusty’s bandoleer. After 23 years, Grand Slam doesn’t even warrant a new head sculpt. This was a figure that I was prepared to pan and not even give a second glance. Yet one thing changed all of that—he arrived in my home. So what happened? What caused me to change from someone who lamented this repaint to someone who embraced it? Simple—this repaint captures the essence of everything I’ve ever associated with Grand Slam. First off, just look at the uniform—which never really felt 100% right as Bazooka. The padded chest over the olive drab fatigues couldn’t be a better match for both Grand Slam and Flash (hopefully) if Hasbro tried. It’s a perfect update of their original look and yet still seems like something you could encounter in the real world. This body has always been one of my favorites regardless of how well I thought it fit the intended character. You can love the mold and dislike the application of that mold. It’s modern and yet not overly “sci-fi”, practical and yet distinctive. Heck, Hasbro could announce that they’re using this body for a Flash figure (crosses fingers and thinks happy thoughts) and I’d have no problem with it. I don’t mind repaints as long as they make sense. Don’t use a Baroness torso, paint over the Cobra sigil, and tell me that it’s Scarlett. This is a case where the reuse of parts is perfectly acceptable and a case where the repaint surpasses the original.
To differentiate this head from Bazooka, Hasbro did two things. First, they added stubble to Grand Slam’s face with mixed results. The sponge-application paint job is a great idea but it seems that the factory is pretty inconsistent when it comes to the actual painting. My Grand Slam seems to have been shaving while driving as one side of his stubble appears to have been shaved more closely than the other side. (I guess you shouldn’t let Clutch drive when you’re running late.) Also, the color used for the 5 o’clock shadow is more of an olive than an actual brown. I don’t know about you but I’ve yet to see someone with an olive drab beard—I didn’t think that the military had gone that completely standardized yet. So, it’s a great idea but one that is probably best fixed by customizers and Joe fans with some painting skill. The second tweak that Hasbro made is to use a different helmet for the figure. Rather than a 100% repaint, the folks in Pawtucket tossed Rollbar’s helmet onto Grand Slam’s borrowed noggin and it works. The original figure had a clear visor, as did his almost twin Flash, but the goggles work for a more realistic update of the classic design. Again, this is a figure that captures the essence of the original character perfectly. I’ve always pictured Grand Slam as the rumpled “function over form” engineer of the team. He’s the kind of guy who will run out, grab a bandoleer of grenades, strap on the JUMP, and take out a Cobra artillery piece that’s got the team pinned down and this is what this figure represents to me. His gear is a bit light—just a pistol and another miscellaneous weapon with a vehicle mount on it. If nothing else, it’s another piece to add to the woefully under-armed ROCC.
Grand Slam is a surprisingly good update and reuse of existing parts. Sure, he’s a clone of Bazooka right down to the head but I honestly like this figure more than I do Bazooka (which I’ve been using as Zap anyway) so I’ll simply move Grand Slam to the forefront of my collection. He’s just one of those figures where you take an existing mold, make a few simple tweaks, and you’re suddenly looking at a figure you never noticed before. I love updates of the original 13 and this figure is no exception. When he hits stores again, order him without regret—because it just might be another 23 years before we see him again.