Review by Fred Meyer & Chris Chung
Pics by Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service 5.0
Flamethrower – Code name: Charbroil
The classic G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line had its banner years. These were the rosters chock-full of fan-favorite characters that changed the landscape of the ARAH mythos. Years like 1982 – 1987 and then 1990 – 1991 helped to define the line in so many ways. Yet, there were other rosters—smaller, quieter and not necessarily spotlighted in animation that contributed just as much to the diversity of the cast of the characters. One such year was 1988—the first post-movie and post-Sunbow line-up which introduced characters like Hardball, Budo, the Iron Grenadiers, Hit & Run, Repeater, Shockwave, and Road Pig. In the same year that fans were able their first release of Storm Shadow as a Joe rather than a member of Cobra, and an orange-clad flame weapon specialist joined the team. This wasn’t an update of 1984’s Blowtorch; but rather part of trend of introducing new characters with similar specialties to current Joes. That figure was a Minnesota native named Charbroil and, thanks to G.I. Joe FSS 5, he’s been given his first generation 3 construction update in his classic colors. Was it worth the wait? Read on and see if Fred and Chris can agree on anything when it comes to this new G.I. Joe figure!
Let’s just be candid—this version of Charbroil should look familiar to fans for a variety of reasons. First off, the figure is merely a repaint of a figure previously released by the GIJCC in their Joe Con 2013 Nocturnal Fire convention set. (He’s the last character from that set to get the classic color update from the Club.)
Not that we didn’t see this version coming a mile away.
Secondly, his recipe is deceptively simple:
I won’t lie—I have a soft spot for the Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper .
You mean the “Halo ODST” trooper?
Yep, given my love of most things HALO-related, that’s a given! But, I digress…
Near the end of the 25 th Anniversary line, I was hitting a real wall when it came to G.I. Joe. Endless repaints and a deluge of RoC movie-inspired product pretty much caused me to burn out on the entire “running a Joe website” gig. As such, I took a few years off and pretty much let JBL slide into obscurity. However, it was the release of product in 2012 that sparked me into returning to a more active role in the fandom—specifically the G.I. Joe and Cobra Trooper figures from Retaliation. They were two of the first figures that I’d reviewed in nearly four years and so I’ve got a bit of blind spot for some aspects of both.
With that out of the way, this figure is exactly what you’d expect if you own either the Nocturnal Fire version or a few Retaliation G.I. Joe Troopers. Literally, it’s the exact same body with the exact same web gear applied. As such, the range of motion in the upper torso is still great and the ankles have a frustratingly limited forward range of motion.
I agree wholeheartedly. Rocker ankles suck. And if you disagree with me, you’re a racist. And Hitler.
The color scheme here is the selling point. Using the trooper body, the Club was able to both modernize and recreate Charbroil’s original look well. Okay, the pin strip on the legs has been replaced by two painted yellow pouches, and his Michael Jackson Thriller-esque shoulders have been replaced by yellow panels on his web harness but I’m surprisingly okay with that. I lived through the 1980’s once and there are some things that NEVER need to come back. Ever.
Well crap. I just bought you a pair of Chess King parachute pants and rainbow suspenders for your birthday. I didn’t keep the receipt…
Moving on, his colors are a good recreation that harken back to the original. It’s not tactical, but it’s fun in terms of needed variety. I will say I was a tad put-off why the Club chose not to use a more glossy red on his eye lenses for his helmet. Doing so would have given it a more reflective or “glasstic” look that would have added realism. But they chose to make his orange gloves glossy instead. (Oh, and kiddies, we’ll have more to say about his helmet below!)
In terms of build, I honestly can’t think of a better way to go about reproducing Charbroil’s uniform in a way that doesn’t require a ton of new tooling.
Okay kids, it’s time for what we call “Fred’s Soap Box.” Try to catch up Fred! I actually have a concert stage for my platform! See, although I’ve yet to get around to finishing the Nocturnal Fire Charbroil review, I really like that figure. (Seriously—pics have been shot for a few years now.) I mean I REALLY like that figure and not just because the Night Force color scheme was so cool. Back when the Joe Con 2013 reveals were hitting the Club had a special reveal of the head sculpt for NF Charbroil . Sure, it was just a repainted version of the 2009 Aqua-Viper Officer but it looked REALLY GOOD with the new color scheme and the blazing red hair. It not only matched the vintage design but it gave Charbroil some personality as well. When the FSS 5 Charbroil was announced, most subscribers just assumed that ole Charbroil was going to be a straight repaint of that version, unmasked head and all. Sadly, that’s not the case and instead the Club opted to do something different and use the 2008 Para-Viper head instead.
As a kid, I always hated it when I had a Joe whose helmet was permanently affixed to their head. I liked to see the faces of my heroes and thought that the villains could remain faceless. It’s why I never was attached to characters like Barbecue, Torpedo, Wet Suit, or Airtight. (Beach Head and Snake Eyes were exceptions to this.) We saw their faces in the cartoon series and in the comics but the figures were forever left “all geared up”. Sure, I get the rationale of why Charbroil would wear additional protection under his helmet but I don’t understand the reasoning for the change. Is that head no longer available? Did the Club designers feel it was just too much red in one figure? I don’t but I don’t like it one bit and I don’t care if I come across as a petulant fanboy in this one instance. It’s like the Club took a step backwards when it came to this version of Charbroil because the Night Force version is truly EXCELLENT.
Yeah, I really don’t get the whole “masked head” look either. If they wanted to change him up a bit, this is one of the few times they should have tooled some new weapons to make him different from the Night Force version rather than taking away his unmasked head. Whoever made that call, it was a bad one. It’s yet another one of these all-too-frequent bumbling choices that ruin potentially great figures. This is even more vexing because it betrays the Club’s alleged philosophy of being “vintage accurate (until it suits them to not be)”. Did vintage Charbroil have a masked head under his helmet? Nope. So why was this done? Now granted I have the luxury of simply swapping in my NF version’s head, but for others who did not get that con set, they are out of luck.
In terms of gear, Charbroil travels light and is packed with the following:
Again, not much of a surprise here. It’s the same kit as the Nocturnal Fire version with the same soft-sculpt helmet as before. The VvV tank and flamethrower now sees its third release by the Club and it still works here. (Don’t tell all 10,000 Blowtorch releases but I really prefer this tank over his.) There’s not much else to say here.
I gotta say Freddy; I’m getting pretty bored with all the current flamethrowers and fuel tanks. Sure, in this case Torch’s were used so Charbroil doesn’t look too much like Blowtorch, but Charbroil had a unique fuel tank and flamethrower, so it would have been nice to see something new even if they could not retool all of his gear. Hell, I would have even preferred those oversized Battle Corps flamethrower/missile launchers for something different; and because the 4” figures fit better with those larger vintage weapons. Oh well.
A backup sidearm is a nice offering when he run out of fuel, but a holster would have made it better.
One thing I want to hone in on is his helmet. I fricking hate it. I even hated it back in the day because it looked like a robotic gopher face. I mean seriously, look at it: two round gopher cheeks, and the buck teeth hanging down from the nose. It’s almost laughable. Except I’m not laughing. Yeah, nothing like going into battle and looking like a giant rodent… The helmet was a stupid design then, and it’s even more painfully dated now. A modernized update reflecting 2017 technology would have been a better way to go on this. (RoC Flash helmet anyone?) I will say the card art of the helmet looks fine, and if the Club would have tooled some O2 hoses to match the concept portrait, that would have helped. But they didn’t, so it’s a moot point.
Great, now I’ve got an image of that dancing gopher from Caddyshack stuck in my head. I’m alright… don’t need to worry about me…
At the end of the day, is Charbroil worth a purchase? Fans of the vintage figure are going to be happy to have a release of the character that pays homage to his original 1988 color scheme. Fans of the 2013 Nocturnal Fire version are going potentially be disappointed by the change in head used this time around. The FSS 5 Charbroil is still a good figure features a solid color scheme and surprisingly solid articulation. In fact, the only real complaint that I can levy about him is the swap of the heads and that’s just personal preference. I don’t how big of a fan base Charbroil has but for those of you out there that have an affinity for this flame weapons specialist and who didn’t subscribe to FSS 5 I can say that he’s worth tracking down. Charbroil fills a gap in the 1988 roster quite nicely, even if you can’t see his face anymore and that’s this Joe fan’s opinion.
For me, I’m not of the opinion that every figure from ever year needs to be done. Especially repaints in lieu of figures that haven’t been made in modern format, or ever. Again, FSS should be about getting us odd-ball and rare characters we’d never normally see otherwise. There’s a chance if Hasbro would actually spend some cash on the line Charbroil could be found at retail even though he’s a third-tier character. But it’s other characters like Colonel Slash, Lola, Dr. Knox, Mangler, and Cool Breeze that have a drastically less of a shot at retail that should be made first. But hey, they keep doing the same old thing, and the dwindling community keeps buying. Except this time I finally got fed up and I skipped FSS 5 because I could not justify spending cash on such the poor designs.
As for Charbroil, he looks decent and he fills in that year-by-year hole, so if that is a concern for fans, that qualifier is good to go. But as I mentioned above, I don’t feel he is a worthy purchase since we’re getting less than what we got with the con set by removing his unique face. And especially not at Club pricing.