There’s something almost magical about the characters of the early years of the Real American Hero era of GIJoe. These were the characters that were featured prominently in the Sunbow animated series—filling many a childhood afternoon with larger-than-life adventures keeping the world safe from Cobra. They are also the primary cast of the 30 or so issues of Larry Hama’s much-loved run on the Marvel Comics series. They are characters from a simpler era of GIJoe when the focus seemed to be on military-realism (with a dash of sci-fi) more so than in later years when action features, neon colors, and “themed groups” dominated the peg offerings. These early Joes were much more realistic in terms of their character design; you had the feeling that you could almost run into any one of them on a military base and would think nothing of it. One shining example of this more realistic era is found in the GIJoe team’s first doctor, a young man known to his colleagues as Carl W. Greer and called “Doc” by his team mates.
When it comes to military realism in GIJoe, you can’t much more accurate than Doc. Clad in tan pants, a tan shirt, and a white t-shirt, Doc is the epitome of every military medic I’ve seen from the early 80’s. Doc’s uniform is so simple that it’s almost easy to overlook the detail hidden in the molding design. Doc’s shirt, with its rolled sleeves, is slightly wrinkled as if from long hours of tending patients. His wrists are noticeably bare—no watch or bracelet is to be found—freeing his hands up to slap on surgical gloves at a moments notice. His belt is panted red and features a canvas-like texture while a pair of small white pouches and a white buckle provide the only ornamentation. Dr. Greer’s pants are similarly plain which an unpainted holster on his right thigh. Molded in the holster is what appears to be a flare gun and two spare flares are molded on his left thigh. His shoes are plain tan—functional and practical without any of the flare that is displayed by the foot wear of later medics like Stretcher. A molded red cross adorns his left shoulder while a painted red cross is displayed on his right bicep. Keeping with his pacifist beliefs, there are no weapons molded or painted anywhere on Doc’s character design. No knives, guns (other than the flare gun), grenades, nunchucks, or any other sort of offensive device appears anywhere on his person. Some might argue that this aspect of his character makes him a liability yet according to his file card, Doc completed Airborne and Mountaineering Schools as well as graduating from a Desert Training Unit. So, while he might not be willing to lift a weapon in combat, Doc is certainly an MD who will do what it takes to get to his men in their hour of need.
Much like his body design, Doc’s head sculpt is simple and to the point. Carl’s hair is cropped short in keeping with regulations (someone might want to mention this to both Outback and Spirit) and his eyes are covered by a pair of dark green sunglasses. I’m not certain if the glasses were added to the head sculpt to make the character appear more studious or if the really were intended to be sunglasses from the start. Either way, the addition of the spectacles actually puts a bit of emotional distance between the audience and the character. The eyes convey a tremendous amount of expression and have been be able to give an average expression either extreme menace or a bemused countenance. In Doc’s case, the neutrality of his expression and glasses work to give him a rather “cool” persona. Now, I’m not talking cool as in John “Shut Yo Mouth” Shaft cool, but rather a calm and professional aspect. It’s a very similar persona that is conveyed by the head sculpt of Recoil—a professional demeanor that shows that this man is someone of intense focus and is not one to let his emotions get the better of him. It’s not to say that Doc (and Recoil as well) is an emotionless automaton, but rather someone who carries that professional code of conduct about them at all times. When Doc cracks a joke, people are taking back— simply because it’s not what you’d expect from him. It’s this demeanor that makes Doc a natural leader as well as the perfect person to carry the secondary specialty of “Chaplain’s Assistant”. Part Counselor, part spiritual center, and all physician, Doc is the type of person who is absolutely essential to covert unit like GIJoe.
I’d be remiss in reviewing Doc if I didn’t devote a few sentences to his accessories. His most distinctive piece of gear, Doc is the only GIJoe figure that I can recall that ever came with a stretcher. Released only one time in 1983, this is one of the best most well-designed pieces of Joe gear ever released. The right length to accommodate any of the figures released to date (except for Golobulus), it is designed to replicate two poles with a sheet of canvas sewn between them. The ends of the poles are forked—allowing the handles to be fitted over the wrists of two Joes, allowing them to carry a wounded team mate to safety. The underside of the stretcher features a surprising amount of molded detail including four small pouches, a first aid kit, and what appear to be two more flares and a small round tube. More detailed than it has any business being, this stretcher is something that I always wanted more of as young GIJoe fan but never could find. It was never released in any of the accessory packs, nor was it a pack-in with vehicles like the Tomahawk or characters like Lifeline. At a time when toy companies seem to get as much mileage out of a product as possible, the simple fact that this detailed piece of equipment only saw one release seems surprisingly. However, back in the 80’s the focus seemed to be on making all of the characters as distinctive as possible rather than on finding new and “interesting” ways to repaint and re-release the same molds over and over again. Doc also came equipped with a mortar-like flare launcher and a tan helmet that sported two molded flares on either side. (Note: The launcher pictured is actually from one of the early accessory packs. My original launcher was lost by a friend that had borrowed the figure for a few days. This was the last time I ever loaned out my Joes as a child.)
Tragically, Doc met his end at the hands of the SAW-Viper in Trucial Abysmia in Marvel Comics #109. As such, you don’t see Doc getting a lot of use in dio-stories or displays because to many collectors and fans “dead means dead”. However, I’m going to have to disagree with that stance as Doc is simply too good of a character to pass up. While not as detailed and as flashy as later Joe medics such as Lifeline and Stretcher, there is a simple elegance in the practicality of Doc’s design. Coupled with the fact that he’s the first MD on the Joe team, and it becomes obvious to me that the character deserves a place in every GIJoe collection. Coupled with his fantastic stretcher accessory and a solid character design, Doc is a figure that everyone should own. So, bolster up your medical staff and track down this fig as I know we’re not likely to ever see a new sculpt version of him released.