It's pretty tough to believe that the Direct to Consumer line started at the G.I. Joe Convention a year and a half ago. A year and a half, and only three complete single pack waves? A year and a half, and we still haven't gotten the proposed fourth wave that was originally shown at Toy Fair in February of this year? Does this not add up to anyone else?
The truth is, Hasbro was working hard to try and get collectors involved in the G.I. Joe brand. Retailers were quickly losing interest in the line as a whole, and Hasbro took a risk taking the line to online retail only, and unfortunately, for whatever reason, the risk most likely did not pay off. From all reports, sales were lackluster, interest from collectors was negligable and the line kind of petered out. In fact, had Wave 4 seen mass release, I think it probably would not have been a big hit among collectors either. From character choice to the execution of those select characters, it seemed as if it was falling somewhat short of collector hopes, and Wave 4 may have been destined for the dustbin of new sculpt history. But as strange as the collector mindset is, the further Wave 4 gets delayed, the stronger demand seems to get, and now folks seem really interested in getting this wave into their hands, even though if it had been released normally, it would have likely been greeted with indifference.
It's really hard to classify this wave to me. From the pictures and the information I'd seen, I found myself among those fairly disinterested in what this wave had to offer. Two out of the three Joes (Falcon and Outback) were characters I absolutely loved, but I wasn't wild about how they were being conceived for this wave. The COBRA Officer was a mere repaint of an already lackluster COBRA Trooper, Night Viper seemed odd and off base from some of the cool customs that have been seen using Overkill parts, and Munitia had a lot of potential, but was still nothing that really hit me hard. These were all initial feelings from the outset that hit me from the pictures I saw. Any other input from your end, Fred?
Nope, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. From your pictures from Toy Fair and then my own shots from the GIJoe Convention this year, I was pretty convinced that DTC was ending with a whimper. My feelings on the DTC Cobra Trooper are not kind and apparently Outback had been hitting the local steroid bar pretty heavily. The only figure in the wave that I was looking forward to was Airtight and even that was only moderately.
But I do have to admit my feelings grow somewhat more positive now that I have a few of these figures in hand, even if they are early samples. Airtight wasn't a character that I was especially fond of, but his original figure always seemed kind of...I don't know...dumpy to me, I guess? Just not really exciting. I find myself a lot more interested in this version, and getting it in hand, it's actually pretty fun. Not nearly perfect, but fun at least.
Dumpy? Bah! In spite of his molded helmet, I always enjoyed the original Airtight figure--- even before I truly had a concept of what a HAZMAT specialist did. If I had seen “Outbreak” all of those years ago, he’d have become one of my favorite Joes due to the nature of his work. Now, I was eagerly looking forward to this figure and when I saw him on Ebay I knew I had to snag him. Unfortunately, as Spock said in “Amok Time”: “Having a thing is not so pleasing as wanting it.”
From a sculpt standpoint, the choice of Wave 2 Barrel Roll from neck to toe is an interesting choice, and ultimately, I think it works to a certain degree. His body style is generic enough that it can really accomplish several tasks, and I really like seeing it here, especially with the swivel wrists, those all purpose shoulder pads, and the working gun holster on his leg. Unfortunately this mold does provide some strange problems, especially with these new sculpt elbows. Because of this new articulation style, the elbows seem to have a more limited motion to them, which can impact a figure's poseability more than you might think.
Some folks have been complaining about the Barrel Roll body style not really matching your basic hazmat suit that Airtight might be wearing, but I don't find as much of an issue with that, and I like the lighter load and more fully functional body style. He can wear this uniform in full combat, but in a pinch can handle hazardous material as well. It's not a full on chemical suit, but it works on the fly.
Topping off the sculpt of this figure is the new head sculpt, which I'm kind of on the fence about. Don't get me wrong, the sculpting itself is absolutely fantastic. The molded helmet, removable goggles and excellently sculpted air intake mask all look terrific. About as good as you can get in this scale. However, part of me wishes the helmet was removable (even though it would need to be oversized to work), and I also wish it wasn't permenantly connected to the rebreather unit on his torso. These minor problems drop the effect of this new sculpt head somewhat, but ultimately I still find myself surprisingly pleased with this figure (since I'm normally not an Airtight fan). What are your thoughts on the sculpt, Fred?
It’s not often that Justin and I radically differ on a particular figure but this is one of those cases. I’m not really certain where to begin with why I don’t care for this updated version of Airtight. Whereas Justin found the RAH Airtight to be “dumpy” I find the DTC version to be extremely lanky and gangly. Now, some fans out there are going to say that this is totally in character with the persona of Airtight. That’s one opinion and those individuals are welcome to it. I never saw him as “dumpy” so much as I saw him as protected by the various layers of the HAZMAT suit that he wore. After all, you have to remember that there is a person of normal proportions under all of that thick yellow insulating material. The Barrel Roll mold doesn’t convey that impression of a “man in a suit” that the original did; instead I’m looking at a guy in a long sleeve sweat shirt and yellow pants. The whole “gloves under the sleeves” look just continues to “not work” for me. Had this body been used as the basis for an updated Lightfoot or Scoop, I could see it but this gangly yellow Waspinator-wannabe just isn’t Airtight to me.
I think Justin’s comments about Airtight “wearing this uniform on the fly” strike home. This isn’t a real HAZMAT suit but rather something that was cobbled together at the last minute as truly substantial gear wasn’t available. As such, the suit fails to come across as being truly sealed and instead convey the impression of a poorly-colored SWAT team member or even an improvised HALO rig. (I’m talking about the paratroopers, not the video game.) I was excited when Airtight made reappearance in Brandon Jerwa’s “History Repeating” arc and when this figure was announced I had hoped for an updated modern overhaul of Airtight’s gear. Instead, I’m left with a figure that seems more a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s rather than a modern hazardous materials trooper.
If Hasbro has really dropped the ball on this figure, the proof is in the head sculpt. If there is one thing that I absolutely hated about certain RAH figures it was the lack of a removable helmet. Sure, the molded helmets looked great “out in the field” but who is going to continue wearing a fully environmentally sealed helmet back at base. (Unless Roadblock made chili again and Barrage had seconds, thirds, and possibly fifths.) I’d hoped for a removable helmet with this new figure and instead I get a vintage gas mask with a removable visor that is attached to a mount on a chest plate that floats around the figure’s neck. Maybe I’m becoming the type of fan that I’ve always found irritating but this is one case where the original figure is far superior to the new sculpt version.
One of Hasbro's main focuses with the DTC line seems to be imitating the former versions of the character as closely as possible, and in this regard Hasbro does a nice job. Airtight's body sculpt is pretty much straight up yellow with a nice generous helping of black and green. He's got black shoulder pads, black gloves, and black kneepads (to go along with the black face mask) and this very dark contrast to the overbright yellow makes things look pretty good. The original Airtight had much less black on him, but I think the contrast is really great, and I like what they did there. For the green, Hasbro went a little bit brighter green than the original Airtight had, but it still works very well. The holster and leg straps use this green color and it looks very nice. His boots are also that color, and it in turn matches the green base on his chest pad with the breather unit. The combination of these three colors mixed with tiny bits of silver on the goggles, the belt, and the breather all combine to really give us an accurate rendition of this character, and give us a great looking hazardous material handler. Comparing this figure to the older version, you can really tell it is an updated Airtight, and it's a more physically imposing version of the venerable anti-contamination trooper, too. But I know Fred doesn't necessarily agree with me on this, do you?
One aspect of this update that I honestly don’t find ridiculous is the color palette used. In many ways, this figure mirrors the original RAH-era figure perfectly. The body is cast in yellow, while the chest piece, boots, and helmet are all olive. There is some deviation in the new figure where, as Justin stated, black is used—most noticeably on the belt and on the gloves. As such, this figure conveys an initial impression of Airtight (and somewhat Scoop and Lightfoot) which is what any successful character update should do. So, while I find fault with just about every other aspect of this figure I do have to concur with Justin that the colors chosen are extremely appropriate. However, I really don’t agree with Justin’s assessment that this figure is more “physically imposing”. He may be taller but the original Airtight could knock him on his sniffer and still have time to stop the giant amoeba!
But while Hasbro did make a lot of good decisions with this figure, there are some head scratchers here, too. While I dig how the figure looks, and how it compares to the original, I really can't explain where Hasbro was coming from with the accessories here. Airtight, who is meant to be a hazmat handler comes with absolutely no tools to handle hazardous material. None. As a combat-trained soldier who can work in a chemical-based environment, he works to a certain degree...I mean he was a "Hazardous Environment Trooper" back in the day. But you'd think he should at least have some way to take care of the hazardous environment after he goes in. This version of Airtight apparently is just designed to go into a hazardous environment and pop some caps in COBRA's ass. I'm not saying his accessories are bad...not at all! I really love them. But they don't suit the character very well.
His Uzi with the wooden stock is a very nicely sculpted and implemented weapon. It's a small form factor, and uses two color tones, which is unusual, but ultimately it's a very nice looking gun. I really love it. I don't think it fits Airtight at ALL, however. He also comes with a removable pistol for his holster, which works nicely. I see no reason why Airtight shouldn't have way to defend himself, and I'm always up for some removable weapons...I just think something else would have worked well here. The last of his bizarre accessories is the actual chest plate that ends up being a focal point of the figure. First of all, it looks absolutely terrific. The minute sculpting detail and intricate paint apps throughout are very, VERY nice. I really love them. But I do not understand the strategy of permenantly attaching this piece to his head. It kind of limits what you can with the figure, even without the removable helmet, and I wish Hasbro had come up with some sort of workable removable plug for the cable. The ribbed cable itself looks excellent, I just don't like the fact that it serves as a leash of sorts to this chest-based breather unit. Is this something we can actually agree on with this figure, Fred?
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve needed a flathead screwdriver and only had a Phillips head within reach. My father subscribed to the theory that your toolbox should always been nearby and should be filled with the “right tool for the job”. Apparently Airtight grew up in a very different household as he is equipped with absolutely nothing pertaining to his job. Granted, I’m not certain how easy it would be to come up with exciting accessories for a HAZMAT trooper but an UZI with a wood stock just doesn’t seem to work for me. Hasbro has moved away from including backpacks with their figures in recent years but this is one instance where a nicely detailed backpack would have made all of the difference in the world. The original Airtight featured a fairly substantial unit that connected via hose to the back of his helmet. The resulting unit seemingly gave him a reliable air supply while working with whatever toxic mess Cobra had created. The lack of any such unit severely diminishes the figure’s usefulness in my eyes. Heck, even the over-used Range Viper backpack that was packaged with the GvC Heavy Duty would have worked in a pinch.
Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Marauder Gun-Runners but the included UZI just doesn’t cut it for me. Its extremely bland when compared to the gear released in the final wave of Valor vs. Venom and is miles behind the 1:18 weapon that Marauder released in wave 1. The wooden stock is extremely “retro” which is in keeping with the overall “throwback” look of this figure. Unfortunately, I don’t want “retro” and “throwback” from my HAZMAT specialists; I’d prefer if these guys were a bit more cutting edge in cleaning up chemicals and substances that could cause a global pandemic. I can only hope that when the figure sees an official release there is a substantially different equipment load included; otherwise Airtight might as well be trying to clean up a smallpox outbreak with a flathead screwdriver.
While there are definite negatives to this version of Airtight, I find the overall design asthetic to be a nice improvement over the somewhat chubby original version we got. The colors are character accurate, the mold is pretty nice, and the new sculpt head is really great. Ultimately I end up liking this figure a lot more than I thought I would.
Wow—I’ve haven’t found a figure this disappointing since the exsanguinated Alpine that was released back in Valor vs. Venom wave 5. This is one of those examples of a figure having a great deal of potential and having that potential squandered utterly. Airtight is everything that I don’t want to see in a new sculpt figure—retro, under-equipped, and not a substantial improvement upon the original. While this basic body mold would have worked well for an updated Scoop or Lightfoot, it is an abysmal failure as an update to Specialist Schnurr. While there are some fantastic aspects of the figure (the detailing on the chest piece comes to mind) the overall package is severely lacking in appeal. As I said earlier, if Airtight had cobbled together this rig in a pinch in an issue of Special Missions, I’d be fine with the design. However, as the character’s regular combat gear, this is a ridiculous throwback that makes the gas mask troopers in Comic Pack #44 look positively modern by comparison. I know that Justin likes this figure and I can only hope that he’ll recover from his head trauma soon.
Ultimately, I think we'll agree to disagree on this one. While I do agree that this figure has his faults, there are enough upsides to make him worth the purchase to me. Even though the accessories don't match the character, they ARE nice, and even with the strange helmet/chestpad linking system, the figure looks pretty cool. I ended up very pleasently surprised with this figure, and I'm glad I landed an early sample, considering. The final status of Wave 4 at this point is pretty up in the air, which is unfortunate, because even more than Wave 4, I have a feeling there were some amazing things planned following this wave. So, taking that into account, I am happy with this purchase, and the figure itself feels pretty close to production level.