Review by Fred Meyer & Chris Chung
Pics by Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe Collector's Club Figure Subscription Service 6.0
Space Vehicle Launch Operator – Code name: Hardtop
There’s not denying that the fact that, in the mid-1980’s, the G.I. Joe brand was on fire! From a highly successful syndicated cartoon series to a hit Marvel Comics series, the brand successfully captured the attention of young boys across America and around the globe. The toy shelves will filled with peg after peg of action figures and accessory packs while toy shelves were covered with boxes of vehicles. It was a second golden age for the brand that initially helped put Hasbro on the map back in the 1960’s. It was also an era of “go big or go home”—with vehicles like the USS Flagg and the Defiant Shuttle Complex occupying as much space in a fortunate child’s room as a piece of furniture! Yet, as impressive as those two vehicles were, they were still vehicles which meant one thing: an included driver! Such was the case with Hardtop—a figure who saw only a single release in the vintage line. Yet, thanks to the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service, this oft over-looked vehicle driver has been given his first modern update. Was it worth it? Read on and find out what two long-time Joe fans think of this vehicle driver.
Hardtop was a rare figure released only in the massive Defiant Space Vehicle Launch Complex, and his function was the gantry crawler driver. For that fact, not many collectors had this figure until the advent of eBay and other secondary markets; and Hardtop as a character had almost no limelight because his specialty was so narrow.
Hardtop is composed of the following parts:
Hardtop actually uses a wide mix of parts; from a Firefly torso, Mouse arms, Zap’s upper legs, Clutch’s lower legs, and of course the Tollbooth head. I think most of us had a sneaking suspicion that should the Club ever do a Hardtop, Tollbooth’s head would be repurposed. For those with that hypothesis, you were not wrong. After all, the Club is loath to spend money on a new part unless they can use it multiple times. With that said, I don’t think the head is entirely successful. For sure it’s passable for what they have at hand, but it’s not a close match and he’s missing his helmet mike. Tollbooth’s face and weird eyes are pretty unique, so to me this looks more like a recolored Tollbooth than a new character. But whatever.
Another thing of note; is the ankle holster. As mentioned on previous figures that feature this, hardly anyone wears a full-sized pistol on their ankle in real life. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable and unwieldly---especially if you need to run. This showcases the relative inexperience of Hasbro designers in terms of weapons and holsters when this part was originally designed back in 2009.
Fred, you’re up. How is his playability?
I’m going to start off by saying that I never had a Defiant Shuttle Complex as a kid. As such, I have zero nostalgia for Hardtop who, by Chris’ earlier statements, never received much prominence in G.I. Joe-related media anyway.
I find Hardtop’s build to be a remarkable fit of “franken-joe” design. As hardcore fans of the generation 3 “no-ring” era are already aware there exists tremendous variation in parts design throughout the entire 25 th Anniversary collection. This variation makes blending parts from that era with any later such as Pursuit of Cobra or Retaliation remarkably difficult. However, the genius who put this build together found a combination that not only replicates the original Hardtop design visually but that also creates a functional action figure! Hardtop can stand, sit, and even kneel with ease and none of the joints appear ill-fitting.
This is a remarkably solid parts build that combines both form and function in a way that is perfection in my book!
Hardtop’s deco matches very closely to his vintage counterpart, and the Club actually uses a good deal of paint on his harness. The result is a faithful homage. The only liberty the Club took was the gray on the turtle neck and rolled sleeve cuffs, but it doesn’t detract anything. (But it does beg to be asked why was a turtle neck torso used when the original did not have this; and especially when there are non-turtle neck torso available?)
I’ll admit—my anticipation of Hardtop at his announcement was minimal but the Club’s design reveal changed everything. The color deco on this figure is both simple (in terms of colors used) and detailed (in terms of how it is applied) and it really makes the figure pop! The combination of the molded white harness and the white pouches on the sleeves and legs help bring this combination of parts together but that’s not the best part. The Club opted to paint the figure’s turtleneck gray and then carried that color choice over to the cuffs of his rolled sleeves. The result is an implied long-sleeve shirt UNDER the light blue jumpsuit. It’s a terrific added detail and one that really elevates the design of this figure in my eyes.
Hardtop comes with the following accessories:
Hardtop comes with very little in terms of weapons and gear. Furthermore, he’s not combat effective---but that’s okay, given his extremely limited PMS. He comes with a pistol, a wrench, and a tool box. The inclusion of the wrench is funny; as the Club is tossing that in to any set they can to maximize tooling cost returns. A harness and stand round out his gear.
Hey, the Club is going to get as much mileage out of that wrench as they can! Maybe Hardtop, Cross Country, Frostbite, and Gaucho can form The Brotherhood of the Wrench!
In all seriousness, I don’t know else the Club could have included to round out Hardtop’s kit. The original 1987 Hardtop was packaged only with a pistol. As Chris already stated, he was considered support personnel and the sidearm was pretty much only for extreme circumstances. As such, I’m okay with the choice of the tool case and the wrench. Maybe they could have tossed in a laptop? I don’t know—this works just fine for me.
Hardtop looks good even though he’s too much Tollbooth in the portrait (for obvious reasons). With that said, I think he’s still a worthy figure because this is exactly what the FSS should have been---a way to get obscure characters Hasbro would have never made. He might not be flashy enough for the casual fan, but he never-the-less fills in a gap for large vehicle drivers.
Fred, your closing thoughts?
Is Hardtop worth adding to a modern G.I. Joe collection? As I’ve already stated I have ZERO nostalgic attachment to Hardtop, due to my lack of Defiant as a youth and his minimal exposure in Joe media. As such, I’m judging this figure SOLELY by his construction and design and I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised by the results. The parts build is good, the deco is excellent, and while his kit is a bit light I don’t know what else I’d have included. I’ll agree with Chris that the head sculpt probably needs the boom mike to help him stand out from Tollbooth a bit but honestly, the two figures are visually different enough that I don’t really mind the #twinning effect here. Instead, I see Hardtop as a fantastic update to a vintage figure that never really mattered to me and that’s impressive. He’s a very welcome addition to a modern collection that stands on his own right—and not just on the shoulders of the past. I’d recommend snagging him if you haven’t already as a solid addition to your Joe support personnel. Of course, that’s just this Joe fan’s opinion.
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