Review by Fred Meyer & Chris Chung
Pics by Fred Meyer
Oktober Guard Flamethrower – Code Name: Dragonsky
G.I. Joe Figure Subscription Service 2.0
G.I. Joe Yearbook #2 was a seminal moment for me as a young Joe fan in the 80’s. It not only marked the dramatic return of the Russian equivalent of G.I. Joe, the Oktober Guard, but it also expanded the team’s roster in a dramatic story that pitted Cobra vs. the Soviets over a new experimental laser. It was “villain on villain” action in a story that moved at a break-neck pace filled with stunning visuals but none more so than when the bald “train engineer” suited up and wielded his “Zhukov Zippo” to incinerate a Cobra FANG and force a squad of Cobra troopers to be a hasty retreat. Clad in his magenta and purple armor (a combination later used by the SAW Viper), Dragonsky proved his worth on the team and left a lasting impression on this Joe fan. It would take Hasbro two decades to release comic accurate version of the character in the O-ring Comic Pack #101. When the Oktober Guard made their Generation 3 debut in the 2012 G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention set Operation: Bear Trap Dragonsky was noticeably absent but thanks to the FSS 2.0, this Russian patriot who lobbed Molotov cocktails at “ Gundarian’s Panzers during the Great Patriotic War” is once again able to join his compatriots. Was he worth the wait? Read on and find out the opinion of two long-time Joe fans!
Helping to wrap up the reviews of FSS 2.0 is Chris Chung of JoeSightings.com. Chris’ comments will appear in BOLD while my own are rendered in plain text.
In nearly every one of his appearances in the Marvel Comics G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series Dragonsky was depicted in his magenta and purple flame thrower uniform. As such, the folks at the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club had to find a body that evoked images of the original character design without any significant new tooling. To accomplish this (and possibly to save on production costs for the FSS 2.0 figure run) the GIJCC returned to the 30th Anniversary Airtight body used for the Tiger Force Airtight in the first wave. For the most part, the body choice is pretty successful even if the colors do seem a bit off to my eyes. (More on this later.) The gloves and boots of the body do work well enough to recreate the look of Dragonsky’s “battle togs” although the figure is a bit shorter than I would have liked. In the comics, Dragonsky has always been depicted as one of the tallest members of the team, on par with Horrorshow. When placed next to the 2012 Joe Con version of the hulking Russian, Dragonsky comes up a bit short. The rest of the look is completed with altered Airtight padding on the upper torso, the lower torso armor of the Rise of Cobra Anthony “Flash” Gambello and the helmet of the Rise of Cobra pilot Firefly v19. The additional parts do help to recreate Dragonsky’s look quite effectively save for the lower torso piece which doesn’t really attach all that securely to the figure’s body. It’s an odd fit and I wish it had been molded in a single piece but that would have required additional tooling. Any comments on Dragonsky’s body sculpt, Chris?
I’m not happy with the body. Dragonsky is a big guy, and the torso they used while passable, didn’t strike me as a faithful representation of how he appeared in the comic. Although it would have been a significant departure, I actually think a RoC Accelerator Suit would have been a better choice if colored the same as Dragonsky. That would have offered the needed height, bulk, and updated his look all in one package, and people could have used Serpentor’s or Speed Metal’s head. (See below for more details.)
I will say the body choice pales in comparison to the absolutely retarded decision to use RoC Flash’s groin padding. Flash’s padding has a raised edge along the inside of the piece to rest against the groin to make it flushed with the rest of his armor, and it has pegs that connect (and were glued) into Flash’s body to keep it in place. Whoever put Dragonsky together obviously was clueless, as the padded half-belt just sits on his waist with no way to keep it on. You can try to rest the pegs on his vest straps, but it doesn’t snap on, so the belt and padding will fall off because it was never designed to be used with this—or any other body, except for Flash. It would have been better if they would have selected a better body, or even just painted his groin in matching vest colors, because as mentioned, the idiotic decision to use this part is staggering to me because it was such a stupid move. Absolutely no thought went into this figure except “make it cheap”, and that’s a damn shame.
It’s pretty obvious to me that Dragonsky’s helmet isn’t intended to be removed for a couple of reasons. First, the fit of the helmet on the figure’s head is INCREDIBLY tight. Secondly, the reuse of Airtight’s head isn’t accurate to any depiction of Dragonsky that I was able to find in the entire Marvel Comics run including his final appearances with Star Brigade. In the comics, the Russian flamethrower expert and engineer was always depicted as bald male with thick-set features. Even Hasbro’s first-ever figure of the character in Comic Pack #101 utilized this depiction of the character, even if the head sculpt was based on then-current comic scribe Brandon Jerwa. Initially I thought that a simple swap could be made with the 25th Anniversary Serpentor’s head but that noggin sits too low on the head. (After all, who displays Serpentor w/o his helmet anyway?) In order to use this torso and produce a figure that was comic accurate the Club would have resorted to producing a newly-tooled head which, given the cost-savings of reusing the entire Airtight mold, just wasn’t in the cards. So, if you’re looking for a figure that is 100% comic accurate you’re going to be disappointed. However, if the figure’s helmet is permanently left on the likeness is decent. Considering the fact that Dragonsky spent more time in the comics sans helmet I would have expected something a bit more from the FSS. I have the feeling that Chris is going to have a few things to say about the reuse of Airtight’s head as well.
Indeed I do Freddie! As you mentioned, Dragonsky is bald. And he’s old. As probably half the community already said, Serpentor’s head would have been an absolute no-brainer to use, but tweaked so it sat higher on the neck. (Or, a better torso could have been used.) Regardless, the Airtight head stank of sheer laziness, especially since he’s essentially a mostly-repaint of Tiger Force Airtight already. Nothing like getting basically the same figure twice in a set… (And oh yes, we’ll get to “Bland Slam” soon enough!) I will concede we don’t have a lot of clean shaven bald heads to choose from, but this is something that Boss Fight should have done so we could have this style of head available for other bald/clean shaven characters like Salvo. On one aspect I can see the rationale, as it links back to the Club’s Steel Brigade Dragonsky back in the 2005 that also had a hood, but Airtight’s face is too young, and the head/helmet combination is extremely tight. But hell, might as well leave the helmet on. That way the paint won’t rub off his nose when you put the helmet on and off too many times.
As for the helmet, I think that was a poor choice as well. Better, more accurate ones could have been used, and this could have been saved for a potential new Gyro-Viper in a future con set. After all, with this helmet and Ultimate Cobra Commander’s heli-pack, that would also be a no-brainer. (But in the case of some of the Club’s decisions lately, maybe that would make too much sense!)
In terms of the figure’s kit, the FSS version of Dragonsky borrows heavily from the Comic Pack #101 version. Included with the figure are the following:
The fuel tank, flamethrower, and removable flame piece were all released with the O-ring version of Dragonsky. The one downer of this reissue is that the cable that connects the tanks to the flame unit is far thicker than is typically used for 1:18 figures. The stiffness of the tubing limits the figure’s ability to pose with his signature weapon outside of a few basic positions. Granted, someone with a flamethrower isn’t going to be performing ballet but as a collector I like to have options. IN this case, they aren’t there even if the weapon itself is one of the nicer sculpted pieces to come out of the last major O-ring series. The AK-47 makes sense for a Cold War era Soviet soldier and works well enough. There’s not much else to say about the figure’s kit other than it works well enough. Chris?
Oh my god, I am so sick of that freakin’ flame thrower and tank, I could scream! It needs to disappear and never come back again. (On the plus side, the Club has used it so often, that at least they got their money out of that tooling.) As we saw in the comics, Dragonsky had a very stylized, and very big flame projector. The one the Club gave us is nowhere close. The good news is, you can swap out that for a vintage Charbroil flamer, and those hose will attach to it with no problems. The drawback is, as you mention Fred, the fuel line on this (and the feed tubes of the Frag-Vipers from the Night Force Set) should have been made with more rubbery and flexible plastic, not the stiff kind we were given that won’t properly bend. But again, this is yet another example of the Club’s ineptitude in some areas. Instead of making sure the hose worked as advertised, they just said “Eh, it’s good enough.” because they don’t care, and they know suckers like us will continue to buy this stuff regardless about the complaints, so there is no reason to improve because they’ll make a sale no matter what.
Another quick aspect I wanted to hit upon was his vest. The vest is a bit too small, and the straps that keep it on are a bit too tight, so it doesn’t fit as it should—and it kind of sits at an odd angle. Because of that, the groin padding also tends to rest at an odd angle not even properly protecting the area it was supposed to keep safe. The Club also made the mistake of having the O2 hose glued to the vest instead of the helmet, so if you take off his helmet, you have an obnoxious hose hanging there spoiling the aesthetic of the figure. It should have been glue to the helmet instead, so when you took it off, you wouldn’t have anything distracting hanging down.
Earlier I said I’d mention the color scheme of the figure and it’s time to follow through on that promise. There’s been quite a bit of discussion over the figure’s color palette on various forums and social media ever since Dragonsky started arriving in subscriber’s mailboxes. In the comics and the previous Hasbro release of the figure, Dragonsky’s uniform has always had a nice bit of color contrast between the body suit and the armored panels. The body is usually displayed as anything from a Crimson to a magenta in tone while the armored panels are in a contrasting purple. For the FSS version, the figure is presented in two tones—light and dark purple. For some reason, this seems off to my eyes and so, in a fit of obsessive behavior, I tore through my copies of the entire Marvel run to seek out all of Dragonsky’s appearances. Sure enough, the color contrast on the uniform was much more pronounced on the printed page than it is in this figure. The reason I mention this is that a better choice of colors might have blunted the sting of the Airtight reuse a bit more. Some folks will say I’m being picky here and that “he’s always been purple”. However, to my eyes, his colors are off—as if Snake Eyes were released in a light gray or Storm Shadow in a very pale yellow. It just doesn’t quite work for a premium figure and I have to wonder if a Convention Set version would have been more accurate. Chris—am I too picky on this point?
No Professor Meyer, you are not too picky. His colors, despite being arguably feminine hues, could have worked. But like the Club’s SAW-Vipers, the colors were too light and subdued, so they don’t work as well as they could have. Dragonsky’s palette should have been the darkest purple and magenta they could do, as that would have deepened his color tone and added depth to his body. Instead, he looks a little too pastel Crayola, and that in turn makes him look more like a chaperone for helping kids find Easter eggs on Easter morning than fight battles. On the plus side, at least the correct colors were used even if the shades were too light. And at least he doesn’t look blatantly homosexual like the aforementioned SAW-Vipers. Thank goodness for some small favors. But with that said, he does not mix well with the rest of the team. It might work in 2D space on a comic page, not so much in reality.
At the end of the day, is Dragonsky worth tracking down? In spite of a few points, I’m going to have to say “yes” only because the alternative is to try and make a version of him on your own. If you’re not a customizer then that isn’t going to happen. At first glance, the figure does a decent job of resembling the source material and the Rise of Cobra Firefly helmet works quite well to replicate Dragonsky’s armored look. As long as the helmet stays on the resemblance is pretty solid. He’s a bit too short to my eyes and his color scheme is off from all of his comic appearances but that’s just my opinion. At the end of the day I think that most folks are going to be happy. He’s a good figure but he falls short of being called a GREAT figure.
The Bottom Line : He’s most likely the only version of Dragonsky we’re going to see in the Generation 3 construction. He’s not perfect but his likeness is “close enough”.
For me, Dragonsky’s quality is akin to a reflection of a first time customizer who has no aesthetic eye; either for parts or colors. He is of shoddy design, pedestrian quality, and is a pale—almost transparent version of what he could have been. He’s a failure, and a perfect example of the seemingly bipolar quality of the Club with these Oktober Guard figures. Too add insult to injury, his reek of half-assed mediocrity is especially strong when the windows are closed. I simply cannot recommend this figure, even if it means someone’s Oktober Guard collection would be missing him. There are dozens of examples of infinitely better customs out there that can be easily made, and those can be done at a fraction of the cost of this. I would have rather this slot been a repaint of Sgt. Stone as Lt. Gorky, because that character would be hard to screw up. As it stands, we’ll probably never see a comic accurate Dragonsky, and that’s a damn shame considering we could have gotten one if we had better, more creative people in the Club.