Review by Fred Meyer & Chris Chung
Pics by Fred Meyer
I’m a big fan of the Joss Whedon series Firefly in which a ragtag crew of a battered freighter travels around a solar system trying to eek out a living. In one episode of the series, the crew’s “hitter” receives a package from his mother-- which consisted of a bright orange stocking cap. The hitter, a dim-witted crewman named Jayne, dons the hat with pride to which one of his shipmates exclaims “A man walks down the street in that hat, people know he’s not afraid of anything.” That quote perfectly sums up my feelings about a man who would toss on a baby-blue and yellow environmental suit and wade into a field full of zombified soldiers. Meet the next member of the “Zombie Initiative” ECO-Force: Ozone.
I was wondering how you'd link the "Firefly" series and Eco Force together!
First off, I just have to say that it is amazing what can be accomplished if you have a keen eye for parts combinations.
Indeed. I don't think it's a stretch to say some of the part choices the Club staffers have chosen in the past were not up to par. I don't know if this was because whoever was putting the mock-ups together had a bad eye for detail, didn't care about how the parts worked (or didn't), or even if some parts were unavailable for whatever reason and the shoddier ones were all they could use. Regardless of excuses, at premium pricing, we should get the absolute best parts to make the most aesthetically pleasing figure. In the case of Ozone, his part selection was near perfect. I'm not sure if this was Boss Fight doing the recipe, or the Club proper, but whoever did it put together an amazing looking figure.
I don’t have that eye but it is obvious to me that whomever designed the Ozone figure most definitely does. Here’s a breakdown of the parts used in creating this particular figure:
It’s a pretty disparate collection of parts that actually works quite well to recreate the original 1991 Ozone design-- or at least as well as can be done with no new parts tooling. The signature elements of the original ARAH figure were the padded vest (that was loaded with green grenades) and the padded boots that included some sort of small screen on the right thigh. In this case, nearly all of that has been recreated! The Snake Eyes legs, originally wasted on a figure with a gimmick “action feature” work very well to recreate the original 1991 design while the use of the Retaliation Cobra Trooper web gear is particularly inspired at recreating the grenade harness look of the classic figure. The RoC Flash arms have seen a bit of use lately in various figures but they provide a streamlined armored look that can be useful for wading into a sea of zombies.
The only real downer to this design is lack of motion found in the ankles. The sculpted shin guards extend down further than they should to allow a full range of motion. This has been a problem with these since they were first released and it a case of where form won out over function.
Honestly, I'm fine if we don't have a whole lot of ankle articulation since I never really need it. Plus, I do not like the specific "rocker" ball-jointed ankles because it makes the figures too unstable. If that articulation is minimized for a greater good, then so be it. Now, that's not to say I want ankle articulation removed---I don't. But in some cases it's not a big deal, and here is one of them.
I’ve not had too many problems in posing Ozone but it is worth pointing out. Aside from his Play-Doh color scheme, the body design is quite solid.
I don’t like Crayola colors on combat troops either, but in this case the colors complement each other so while he does looks garish, it's a systematic and "correct" garish of colors matching each other on the visual spectrum. If this was a civilian HAZMAT suit, it would just look like medical or corporate colors to me. (Or racing hues!)
I do want to mention some of the green paint was sloppily applied, especially around the grenades. Again, not cool at premium pricing, but thankfully the problems were things I could fix on my own---but that does lead to the annoyance of having to fix a brand new item right out of the box.
Once again, I’ll just commend the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club for retaining the services of the crew from Boss Fight Studio in designing their exclusive offerings. While the Club products were decent before there has been a marked uptick in quality since the BFS crew has become involved and nowhere is that more apparent than in the head sculpts used to produce their figures. Case in point: Ozone.
The original Ozone’s head sculpt was almost out-of-place in the clean-shaven early 90’s in which it debuted. Based upon then-Hasbro designer David Kunitz, the figure sported longer hair and a thick beard-- both of which have been successfully reproduced this brand new sculpt. The design is uncannily similar to the original (as opposed to radically different as was the case with Clean-Sweep) and a quick question to the crew a Boss Fight confirms why. BFS went back to the original source and based the head sculpt on old photos of Dave Kunitz. Talk about being faithful to the source material! I especially like the raised right eyebrow and the slight smirk-- as if Ozone finds the entire Compound Z epidemic both fascinating and frustrating. This head sculpt just breathes life into what would otherwise be a guy in a baby blue and yellow skin suit!
Though this is a bit of a double standard because Clean-Sweep's likeness; despite also being based on a real Hasbro employee, was deemed "not handsome enough" to do a proper tribute in the same vein as Ozone.
It's also interesting to note Boss Fight did a mirror of Ozone's head compared to the original, as the modern version's hair is parted in the opposite direction. Certainly not an issue, but fun to mention.
If I had to throw one knock at this figure’s head sculpt it would aimed at how the head fits on the neck peg. There’s no way to sugar coat this-- the head sits way too high on the shoulders which gives Ozone a bobblehead-like appearance. At first I thought it was just a trick of the light and colors used for the figure’s uniform but it became even more obvious once I placed the included helmet on top of the head. In fact, that made the figure’s neck even more pronounced and totally shattered any illusion of a functional HAZMAT uniform. It’s kind of hard to be protected against airborne chemicals when your neck is completely exposed.
Yup, the sizing is a bit off---he has "scale creep", and the helmet doesn't completely cover his head because it's too short. (I detail this more in the Flintreview.) The head also looks big, but there are two things we need to consider. The first is, some of that can be attributed to the uniform and colors. His suit is fairly sleek with nothing really blousing out, and he has a thin, wiry frame in general that the pastels enhance rather than conceal, so if we take that into consideration, proportion isn't that off. He just looks like a tall, thin guy.
The second factor is this: for most of the modern reboot of the line since JvC to now, heads have been tooled proportionately smaller compared to the bodies, and therefore aren’t anatomically correct. (Case in point: Compare 2011 PoC Duke's head with Night Force Psyche-Out's. Both figures use the same body, but Duke's head is much smaller than a real human's should be while Psyche-Out's is fairly correct. Same with almost all versions of Destro.) I think because we're so used to smaller heads, it's jarring when we see one that's actually the realistic size.
There's also a perceived aesthetic that a smaller head on a larger body looks more heroic. Mechanical designer and film director Shinji Arakamki talks about this at length, and how in his CGI films, he has to constantly make sure heads are realistic in size and are not deliberately scaled down to be smaller.
This year’s Joe Con set “Zombie Initiative” presented two radically different sub-teams of Joes. One was dedicated to the task of curing those individuals who were infected with the Compound Z chemical while the other was focused on the containment and eradication of the zombie menace. It’s easy to see which camp Ozone belongs in given the completely non-lethal nature of his kit. Included with Specialist Kunitz are the following:
Ozone’s gear is almost entirely non-lethal with only a small side arm for protection. Armed with Airtight’s Sniffer and a bottle of the Z+ chemical he seems to be the “cure guy” for the ECO-Force while Flint provides the muscle and Clean Sweep deploys the Z+ with his canister rifle. One could argue that this means that Ozone is completely unprepared to fend off the hordes of the infected but it also could be said that Specialist Kunitz doesn’t need anything more than a single pistol to protect himself. Maybe he’s just THAT good with a pistol!
I can think of better weapons to use against zombies, but his gear is understandable. He's not a front line fighter, so it would make sense he'd carry gear to battle the chemical instead of heavy firepower to kill the infected. But hey, at least he has a sidearm as backup. Many figures don't. Besides, he's in shape. His HAZMAT suit is tight fitting, so it theoretically allows him to be agile so he can run away and not have any loose clothing for someone/something to grab/snag onto. Wasn't it Max Brooks who said in The Zombie Survival Guide to wear as much spandex as possible because it's harder for zombies to grab on to you? Same principle.
I do wish that the backpack and sniffer were molded in different colors simply to provide some contrast in an otherwise BLUE color palate but otherwise I’ve got no real complaints. I do like the brand new helmet that was sculpted for Ozone although, as is the case with Flint, I just wish it were a bit larger to provide a more realistic appearance of HAZMAT protection.
Is Ozone worth picking up post-Joe Con? This is a tricky question for me to answer. I’m primarily an ‘82 - ‘86 fan of A Real American Hero. As such, Ozone came about 4 - 5 years after I’d stopped buying Joes for myself. Visually, he’s as different from the olive drab Original 13 as night is from day. However, once you get past his utterly ludicrous Play-Doh color scheme, the figure itself is really pretty solid. He’s visually faithful to the original design, has a great range of motion outside of some issues with the ankles, sports a terrific brand-new head sculpt, and even has some interesting gear. Ozone was the figure from ECO Force that I acquired but I was surprised by just how much I do like the figure. He’s not my first choice from the roster but he’s still a good addition to the Joe shelf of any late 90’s era fans.
The Bottom Line: He may look like he’s made out of Play-Doh but Ozone boasts a solid figure design and a slick brand-new head sculpt based on the original 90’s design. Worth picking up if you’re a fan of the DiC era Joes.
I'm not a fan of making characters who are 25 years into new versions that also look like they are 25 years old. If we get classic characters, I want them to be modernized and equipped like it was 2014. There are plenty of ways to update a character and still carry through the essence of what they were before. But with that said, I think Ozone is a fantastic figure that very successfully harkens back to his vintage counterpart. The Club did a great job replicating his essential core, and it shines through admirably. I never cared about Ozone, and honestly, I never used him even though I had him as a kid. So when he was announced, I could care less. But since he was such a successful tribute to the original, I ended up really liking him for reasons I can't really comprehend. And unlike Clean-Sweep who felt too much like a second-rate Airtight, Ozone's look and feel is vastlydifferent which makes him unique and noteworthy. I'm not going to say he's a must buy, because really, how much are fans really going to use HAZMAT troopers? But I can say this nobody became my favorite of the boxed set, and if someone does take a risk buying him, they probably won't be disappointed either.
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