Review & pics by Fred Meyer & Justin Bell

Machine Gunner - Code name: Ssgt. Rock 'n Roll

  Review & pics by Fred Meyer & Justin Bell

Rock 'n Roll card

I’ve always found the reverence that many fans have for the “Original 13” Joes a bit ironic. The classic G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line was filled with a panoply of diverse and distinctive character designs whose diversity spanned nearly 12 years of action figures. Yet, despite this multitude of choices many fans (myself included) look at the least diverse year with reverence that the casual observer might find a bit hard to explain. After all, the figures of the first year appear to be nothing special—clad mostly in olive drab with only a limited selection of pieces used to build over a dozen characters. “What’s so great about a bunch of green army men?” Simple—to many G.I. Joe fans, these are the characters who “started it all”—the founding members of the A Real American Hero era. Thankfully, some of the decision makers at Hasbro appear to share this passion for the inaugural roster as more and more of their elite number have been making their debut in the 25th Anniversary line. Personally, I couldn’t be happier.


Heh heh… you said “panoply”… what the flying fig is a “panoply”??

Seriously, though, I agree with your assessment. I’ve always had a similar opinion. To me, G.I. Joe hit it’s stride long after 1983, and it seems funny that the fandom has such devoted reverence for a run of figures that were largely the same (especially since many fans decry the practice these days). I have my own affinities, mostly due to the fact that my first Joe figures were Flash, COBRA, and Short Fuze, but really most of the greatest characters and figures came after that first run.

Rock 'n Roll frontRock 'n Roll back

It would seem that after six full waves of figures Hasbro has decided on the “standard buck” for the original members of the G.I. Joe team. Take the body used for Breaker in Comic Pack #14, paint the boots tan and add in a matching molded sheath on the left thigh. Next, use the same “Hasbro House” belt that was featured on the Sgt. Flash figure and add in a pair of molded ammunition belts. Stir rapidly and allow to cool and you’ve got the body of Rock ‘n Roll. This reused body works to provide the same uniformity among the team members that the reuse of the Snake Eyes body in constructing Stalker offered. It also presents the same limitations as once again the dreaded “Duke arms” resurface with their limited range of articulation and visually distracting forearm swivel joint. Perhaps I’ve grown complacent when it comes to this body but there isn’t that much more to say. Until the designers at Hasbro see the “Duke arms” as “less than ideal” I’m afraid that we’re going to be seeing them time and time again—each time offering less poseability than was found in all of the previous G.I. Joe lines. The truly disheartening part about the continual reuse of parts is that it is impossible for Rock ‘n Roll to achieve much in the way of an interesting pose with his included weapon. He can hold it one-handed with the stock tucked under his arm but that’s it. In the end, it’s a continually over-looked design issue that hampers my enjoyment of this figure more than a little.


Agreed and agreed. I like the fact that Hasbro has leaned towards a fairly generic “base figure” when it comes to the original 13, just because it keeps things consistent, and keeps tooling dollars down. But I also agree with you on those blasted Duke arms. The more I see them used the more annoyed I get…everything about the Anniversary line has improved so much, that these horrible looking and functionally inept arms just become more and more glaring.

If the arms of Rock ‘n Roll are the weak point, then the head sculpt and the added ammo belts are the high point. Breaker once again proves to the be anomaly of the team as Craig O’ Connell head is more in scale with figures such as Stalker, Flash, and Hawk than he is with “Mentok, Destroyer of Worlds”. The sculpt is quintessential Rock ‘n Roll—with the shaggy hair and scruffy beard that fans have come to identify with the surfer-turned-soldier. There is even a combed part down the left side of his straw-colored mane. The figure’s jaw line is almost a bit too pronounced but the key term here is “almost”—the sculpt walks a fine line but never quite crosses over into under-bite territory. The only downside of the head sculpt is found in the paint applications of my figure. Rock ‘n Roll’s skin tone is very light and it blends well with the yellow paint used for his hair color. When painting the eyes, Hasbro uses first a white coat for the pupils and then a smaller black coat for the pupils. Unfortunately, in Rock ‘n Roll’s case the white blends in too well with the paint used for the skin tone. The result is that, at first glance, the team’s original machine gunner comes across more as a cousin to Little Orphan Annie than he does a member of one of America’s premiere counter-terrorist teams. Aside from this small detail, the head sculpt is solid—at least to my eyes. Of course, Justin’s a big fan of Little Orphan Annie and he may have taken offense at my last comment.


Honestly I’m sure I could think of more to complain about besides the shade of white they used to paint Rock n Roll’s eyes… :P

The head sculpt is largely perfect. It captures Rock n Roll’s character exceptionally well and the helmet fits on seamlessly. The sculpting of the beard and the hair works excellently and even with the generic body parts, this absolutely IS Rock n Roll.

I’m no expert on firearms so I can’t speculate as to what weapon the included machine gun is supposed to be. To my eyes, it doesn’t appear to be the same model that was included with the original Rock ‘n Roll. In fact, it appears to be quite a bit larger in scale than the original 1982 version of the figure’s signature firearm. The machine gun is perfectly serviceable as a display piece but the limited range of motion in the figure’s elbows combined with the size of the accessory offer a limited range of functional poses. There is a slot on the left hand side of the weapon to insert the end of the included ammo belt which is a nice bit of detailing that brings this figure more in line with the Roadblock figure already released in the line. It’s a shame that this figure cannot share the same range of motion with his specialty weapon as Roadblock.


I’m no firearms expert either, but from appearances, this gun looks almost identical to his original, only with a somewhat larger scale. That’s a double-edged sword because it looks more in scale and more realistic, but it’s sized to the point that Rock n Roll struggles to even hold it with those arms.

All-in-all, Rock ‘n Roll is a solid addition to the 25 th Anniversary line. He’s not perfect and he shares many of the same design issues that have plagued this line since day one but the good points outweigh the bad, at least in my eyes. It’s a shame that he’s unable to achieve any realistic range of poses with his weapon but that seems to be an ongoing issue with the anniversary series. He does, at least, sport the fixed waist piece as well as a dynamic head sculpt that makes him one of the best “original 13” updates in the line. All in all, I can safely recommend the inclusion of Rock ‘n Roll to any 25 th Anniversary collection with few regrets. Of course, Justin may have a completely different opinion on the subject matter.


I can’t say that Rock n Roll’s one of the best Original 13 updates of the line…I do love the gunbelts and the head sculpt…the weapon is familiar and iconic. But those arms just detract so much from the functionality and aesthetic of the figure that it really knocks him down a few notches. Fortunately even with those arms, from a display standpoint he fits in with the other Original 13 Joes perfectly, and fills a big gaping hole in the roster. Here’s hoping that by this time next year none of those holes are left.

Rock n Roll I do consider a definite “buy” if only to fill out that crew of original Joes. His looks are serviceable, though not perfect, but I think he’s still a core member of the team and he’s worth dropping the six bones.




Copyright 2003