If anyone were to suggest that the GIJoe: A Real American Hero toy line of the 80’s was anything but diverse, I’d suggest that it might be time for an eye exam. The GIJoe team was ground-breaking compared to other similar toy lines of the day in that the roster featured several ethnic minorities and women in prominent roles on the team. In fact, many of the key characters in the line were anything but “typical white guys”. One shining example of this was found in the character of Charlie Iron-Knife—better know as the team’s tracker, Spirit. A proud soldier and native American, was featured in both the Sunbow animated adventures as well as the Marvel Comics series. Portrayed with a quiet dignity, this tracker and herbalist also possessed a specialization in Social Services and eventually served as a profile. He was a character who could track an individual down anywhere on Earth, first by understanding the person’s motives and psychology and then by physically tracking him down. It seems only logical that a character that is this distinctive should be released in the Anniversary line.
It’s amazing how many times I keep repeating the same mantra over and over and that is that Hasbro certainly knows how to faithfully reproduce classic character designs in this “no-ring” style of construction. All of the classic elements of Spirit’s original uniform are present—from his tan fringed pants and high leather boots to the light blue short sleeved shirt with his rank insignia on the left arm. Even the bracelets found on his forearms have been faithfully reproduced in this terrific update to a classic character. Eagle-eyed fans might recognize the figure’s forearms—they’re straight from their previous engagement on the 25A version of Shipwreck. The other detailing on the figure—the molded “web gear” features some especially intricate detailing in the form of grenades, dog tags, and even a sculpted sheathed knife. While borders on being “too busy” on the right hand side, it’s not nearly as confining as the harness that was found on the 25A version of Firefly. My only real issue with the character design of this figure is found on the sculpted rubber “loin cloth” that encircles the figure’s waist. As with pretty much any figure that has featured a “rubber skirt”, this one hampers the figure’s movement in the hips and makes sitting poses a bit difficult to achieve. Hasbro has previously mixed soft goods and sculpted parts in such recent figures as the German motorcycle trooper in the Indiana Jones line and I wish that they’d taken the same tact here with Spirit. A cloth piece would have recreated the waist cloth of the original figure while also offering unrestricted movement in the figure’s hips. All-in-all, this is a solid character design update with one issue to be found in Spirit’s uniform. So Justin, do you find yourself agreeing with me, Kemosabe?
Yeah, I do agree. I’ll preface this by saying that I wasn’t a huge fan of the Spirit figure back in the day (though I loved the character). That original version was always a bit more scrawny and felt so brittle that I just didn’t feel like I could do what I wanted to do with him. The first version I had broke his thumb within 2 weeks, but luckily I got a second for my birthday shortly thereafter. Still, as cool as the character was in the cartoon and comics, I just couldn’t get myself into the figure.
The Air Commando version of Spirit was considerably better from a construction standpoint, but it lost the iconic feeling of the original. He just didn’t look right facing off against Firefly (or Storm Shadow if you followed the cartoon more religiously than I did). The accessories were always a bit strange as well, and didn’t necessarily mesh with the concept of a modern special missions force.
With all of the background out of the way, though, how does this current version live up to the… “spirit” of the character? It does it very well, I think, although there are some flaws, to be sure.
Looking at the big picture, this figure is a great representation of the classic Spirit figure we first saw so many years ago. The light blue shirt, the tan pants, the Native American influence (perhaps too much Native American influence?). It all fits together very well, and this is instantly recognizable as the character it represents. It does it’s job remarkably well, over all. When you start looking at specifics, though, it’s easy to pick apart the various issues that this figure has, though the total package works well for me.
Some fans have complained that Spirit’s head sculpt is a bit “too Native American”. I’ll admit, at first glance I thought the same thing but it was only when I compared it to the 1984 Spirit figure that I realized this sculpt is a pretty decent update to the original. I’ll admit that my favorite version of Spirit produced to date is the Devil’s Due inspired DTC Spirit but this head sculpt does a decent job of rendering the original GIJoe tracker in an updated 2008 sculpt. One change from the original design is the placement of the figure’s two braids of hair. Whereas the original figure featured them placed symmetrically sweeping forward over the figure’s shoulders, the “no-ring” version has one flowing forward and the other flowing backward, breaking up the design a bit. Honestly I like this change as I’m less reminded of Laura Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie” when I look at this update than I was with the original design. If I have any issues with this figure design it’s found in the figure’s two sculpted hands. As with the Viper figure from this wave, Hasbro seems determined to render figures with more dynamically sculpted hands as opposed to the neutral “c-grip” that fans have become accustomed to over the past 25 years. The right hand is sculpted in a slightly exaggerated trigger hold that would work well on any of the “standard” rifles in this line. The downside of this hand is that the grip is almost entirely too wide to hold the included knife which nearly falls through the figure’s fingers. The left hand, however, is contorted into what can only be called a “peace sign” of sorts. Two of Spirit’s fingers are extend while the remaining two are balled up like a fist. It’s a puzzling gesture that doesn’t really fit at all with the handle-less rifle that is included in his kit. I’m not entirely certain exactly what Hasbro was going for with this pre-posed hand but it severely limits the figure and how it can believably hold the included accessories. Again, this might be a case of me being a bit hypercritical of a design aspect but this seems to me to be another case of “Viper hands”. What are your thoughts on this, Justin?
Yeah, these are perfect examples of the specific flaws that I mentioned, that do take away some of the successfulness of this figure. I don’t find so many issues with the head sculpt, I think the larger problem is that the face sculpt ends up almost “meshed” with his hair braids, which ends up making the head look a little bit oversized and over “wide”. I think if Hasbro was able to separate the hair a little bit better and slim down the face somewhat, it would have helped a lot. But as it stands, it almost seems as if they over-exaggerated the Native American features. Still, I don’t have quite a major issue with it as other folks do. It is a definite focal point and it can be distracting to a point, but for the most part, I think it works fine.
The hands…well, that’s a tough call. I’m all for versatility in articulation and in hand positions, that’s part of the major detractions from the Viper figure. He just looks totally ridiculous doing anything except holding his rifle. Well, Spirit suffers from the same problems to a certain degree, especially with his left hand. Now a lot of folks (Fred included) seem to think that his fingers are positioned like that to simulate drawing a bow, and that is certainly the case. My own personal opinion, though, is that it’s more of a gesture for Freedom, and I think it works pretty well for that. With the eagle perched on his arm, he points with his fingers and directs Freedom to the desired target. It looks okay on display that way, even though it doesn’t fit all other aspects. I would have preferred a more neutral position, but I can make this work to a certain extent, unlike the Viper hands, which are near useless.
In terms of gear, there’s not too much to discuss. Included with Charlie Iron-Knife is an updated version of his original “dart rifle”, a sculpted backpack with two extra clips, a small knife for the sheath on his left leg, and the Freedom eagle that first debuted with the DTC version of Spirit. While fans of the original figure are going to love the updated sculpt on the rifle I’m a bit more ambivalent. Honestly, it’s not because it’s a poorly designed accessory (it’s not) but I was hoping that Hasbro would take this opportunity to update Spirit’s rifle with something a bit more practical. As a young Joe fan, I was never partial to the “dart gun”—mostly because it never really seemed like a plausible firearm. Call me crazy, but I like my Joes to have weapons at least appear to be functional. However, this is more of a personal preference than a design element that detracts from the figure’s appeal. I was glad to see the inclusion of Freedom again who seems perfectly in scale with this 25A figure. I’m sure Justin has a bit more to add when it comes to Spirit’s kit, so I’ll pass the keyboard back to him.
Yeah, as I mentioned, the dart gun never worked well for me, and didn’t fit alongside those high tech soldiers sporting laser rifles and state of the art weaponry. But from a design perspective, these accessories are absolutely incredible. Incredible.
First of all, let me just say that if his dart gun had an actual handle that was easier to hold, it would work a lot better. But even has it stands, Hasbro took a group of existing accessories and really spiced them up well and gave us some totally new concepts. The removable clip, which can fit into his backpack (which also contains two other removable clips), his highly detailed, fantastically sculpted backpack, along with his knife and the same version of Freedom we got in DTC from an accessory standpoint Spirit is the “whole package”. Lots of stuff to love from that perspective, even with the flaws intact.
In terms of updates, Spirit is a mixed bag. On one hand this figure has a terrific sculpt that really serves to bring the classic character design nearly 25 years forward in terms of detail and design. On the other hand, poor Charlie is saddled with two hands that border on too stylized. It’s a classic example of Hasbro’s current strengths and weaknesses in terms of the GIJoe line. When it comes to sculpting and design, Hasbro is doing an overall fantastic job. (Their Achilles Heel, however is their inconsistency in terms of the proportions of the human body.) However, when it comes to articulation and usable accessories its as if the good folks at Hasbro didn’t actually make certain that the included gear worked with the figure. I think its this dichotomy that continually puzzles me in terms of the line’s execution and it’s the one detail that keeps me from fully embracing this “no-ring” style of construction as a worthy successor to the products of the past 25 years. However, all Soap-boxing aside, Spirit is visually one of the more interesting figures in this 25 th style of construction. Fans of the original character design are going to be pleased and will want to snag this figure as he hits store shelves. As for the rest of the fandom, it’s all going to depend on just how much you really enjoy this new line of GIJoe figures.
I agree totally with Fred. There is a lot to love with this version of Spirit, but a lot that can be picked apart as well, which just depends on your overall perspective. On the display shelf, Spirit looks incredible and fits in seamlessly with the other 25 th Anniversary figures and looks really, really nice. A very good update.
But if you get up close and personal, and are intent on picking out the flaws, there are a lot of them here to be concerned with. Ultimately, I am relatively satisfied with this version of the character, in spite of flaws like the rubber “loin cloth”, the sculpted left hand, and the strange head sculpt. In spite of all of those minor issues, he looks good on the shelf, and I find myself liking the figure anyway.