The DTC formula for designing figures seems to take an extremely economical approach. Through the reuse and recombination of existing parts Hasbro is able to stretch their budget a bit and still come up with new character combinations. Sometimes, this works to great success—as evidenced by the recent Plague Troopers vs. Steel Brigade six pack. Other times the results are “less than positive” as I described in the review of the DTC wave 3 Cobra Trooper figure. However, there are some reuses that leave me a bit unsure as to exactly what I think of the figure. Such a case is found in the forthcoming Stuart “Outback” Selkirk figure destined to hit shelves with the release of DTC Wave 4.
If this figure looks vaguely familiar, its because you’ve seen it before as Major Barrage in the first wave of the Direct-to-Consumer line. Barrage was most anticipated of the first wave of DTC figures as he was constructed from entirely new parts. Larger than most of the standard 3.75” figures, the good Major was described at 6’8” tall and was built like a MOBAT tank! Not since Sgt. Slaughter had the Joes seen a figure quite so muscular. Apparently, the folks in Pawtucket decided that they should get some additional mileage out of the figure mold as, from the neck down, Outback is entirely Barrage. A few changes have been made to the color scheme—such as molding the pants in a much darker shade of green, and painting the boots dark gray. Barrage’s white tank top is now painted black and his gloves have gone from tan to black with the fingers cut out. In order to add some “Outback” to this design, the tank top now features Specialist Selkirk’s signature “SURVIVAL” logo. Another major change is found on the left arm; Outback has apparently been to the same tattoo parlor as the VvV Wave 6 Torch figure as he is now sporting some intricately designed artwork on both his forearm and upper arm. Overall, this is a solid color and parts combination that actually works quite well for the figure. The darker palette is quite realistic and practical while the waist and legs look much more dynamic when rendered in the darker colors. Sound good to you, Justin?
I agree on all counts, and personally I’m pretty glad Hasbro went this route. The new sculpt body used for Major Barrage is a clear example of the progress Hasbro has made since 2002 in sculpting these new figures, and it was pretty close to the ultimate in basic figure design. Large, muscular chest and arms, powerful legs, and improved articulation. It’s a great body and a generic enough body that it CAN be used for multiple characters, and it works very well for Outback who has always been presented as a large, muscular character. Darker colors really help this figure stand out from Barrage some, and the camouflage pattern on his pants looks quite realistic and very well done.
If Outback has a downside, it’s his head sculpt. The original Outback featured a very strong jaw line that was further accented by a thick bushy beard. His expression was decidedly stern—with thick red hair topping his head. The result was a very stern man who you’d not want to end up at odds with. The new Outback head sculpt takes a very different approach to the character—one that I’m not entirely sold on. It would seem that Outback is a fan of the Guns n Roses as he seems to be giving us his best Axel Rose impression with long stringy hair and an excessively wide headband. Apparently, in the intervening years between the two toy lines Specialist Selkirk has completely forgone military regs and has let his hair both darken and grow. The result is a character design that would seem more appropriate at a Monday Night RAW taping as opposed to America’s premiere anti-terrorist unit. The other issue I have with the head sculpt is found in the softening of Outback’s features. As stated previously, Outback had very strong definite facial features in his original mold. This newer version features a much more rounded jaw line and must less pronounced cheekbones. Instead of resembling an update of the GIJoe team’s survival expert, he ends up resembling a painting of (dare I say) Jesus that hung on my uncle’s wall for a number of years. Maybe it’s the long brown hair and the neatly trimmed beard or even the softer features but I can’t get the impression of Jesus teaching his disciples out of my head. (No, this is not meant as an “anti-religious” or “anti-Christian” comment. Literally, if I could find an online copy of the painting I would. The resemblance is uncanny.) As such, any impression of menace is obliterated and I’m instead left with an Outback would is more likely to help a Cobra Soldier than one who would sneak up behind them and “quiet them” with his hunting knife. It hurts the character quite a bit in my eyes and leaves me wondering just what the thinking was in Rhode Island when this head sculpt was created.
I don’t have nearly as many problems with the head sculpt as you do, Fred, and personally, I kind of like it. It’s not a straight up rendition of the original, of course, but styles have changed pretty drastically since the late 80’s. You just don’t see many people with the hair style and full beard that Outback had back in “the day”, and I can understand why Hasbro made some changes they did to make him appear more current. It would appear they were going for a wilderness survivalist kind of look for obvious reasons, and in that way I think they were extremely effective. The sculpting itself on the head is very nice and well detailed with the long hair and beard. I love how they integrated the sculpt of the headband into the straggly hair, it just gives it a nice realistic appearance. Is the head sculpt perfect? No, not in the least. But I think it makes for a good update, and the look of the face, beard, and hair style really meshes well with what I’d picture a character like Outback looking like in the modern day. Grunge may be out, but after a few weeks living off the wilderness, I can see Outback really looking this way, and I like this look quite a bit.
My Outback figure came complete with a recolored Spy Troops Blackout backpack (shown with the figure at both the Joe Con and Toy Fair), a black issue of the ’92 Firefly rifle, a hunting knife, and the web harness that was shown with the Wave 4 Cobra Officer. In fact, my figure was actually shipped with this harness already on the figure and I have to admit I’m hesitant to remove it. It’s a great homage to the original Outback’s accessory harness and one that works for the character far better than the Blackout pack which just looks insignificant when worn on such a large frame. I’m actually hoping Hasbro recognizes the “perfect fit” with the harness and Outback and packages it with him instead of the Officer who will positively swim in it.
That’s one source of disappointment for me in this figure…if the included harness does in fact go with the Officer and not with Outback, that means Outback comes with no new accessories, which kind of stinks, honestly. In this wave, new gear is really carrying some of these figures, so Outback not having any would somewhat negatively impact his appeal. Hopefully Fred’s right and if this figure does get released, he comes with this black harness, because it looks great and works very well with the character and the figure. Considering how well it fits (and how large it would likely be on the Officer) I’m inclined to say that the harness is designed with Outback in mind. Even though he does come with rehashed weapons, though, the weapons are not too bad. I really love the ’92 Firefly rifle…it works on many different levels, and I can see a wilderness trooper toting around a long range weapon of this sort for sure. The knife is iffy…it looks almost too “toy like” especially compared to some of the other excellent weapons in this wave.
Outback… I’m not really certain where I fall on this figure. On one hand, he’s got great colors, solid accessories, and is a reissue of a classic character that I’ve always been a fan of. On the other head he resembles a bizarre cross between the Christian Messiah and Axel Rose and fails to resemble the original character only on a very superficial level. Had the head sculpt resembled the card art shown at the GIJoe Convention more closely, I’d be whole-heartedly endorsing this figure from my snow-covered rooftop. However, as much as I want to say that this figure is the best version of Outback ever, I can’t. The original figure was one of those figures that was done perfectly the first time and improving upon it is darned near impossible—especially when simply reusing existing parts and tossing on a new head. Unlike Grand Slam, the SAW Viper, and Low Light, this DTC update just doesn’t quite work for me. With a better head sculpt and a slightly smaller build, maybe I could see this as my new Outback but I’m just not quite sold. I know a lot of fans are going to disagree with me on this review but while he’s a good figure, he’s just not quite THE Outback that I’ve known for years.
Even though I really like this head sculpt a lot more than Fred does, that doesn’t necessarily immediately elevate this figure to best Outback ever, mostly because I’m such a huge fan of the original (or more specifically, the Night Force version of the original). Outback has long been one of my favorite characters and one of the best classic sculpt figures of the line, and while this new sculpt version is pretty darn cool, I think, it can’t quite push aside the venerable goodness of the Real American Hero version. Equipped with his webgear, backpack, leg-mounted flashlight, and submachine gun, the old school Outback has long term appeal, something that this new version doesn’t necessarily run away with. I love his mold (yes, even the head, Fred!), his paint apps are quite good, too, but he just doesn’t quite have that timeless feel that the original did.