Imagine one day that you woke up and realized that you were on the wrong side. I don’t mean the wrong side of the bed, or the wrong side of the breakfast table—I mean the wrong ideological side. You rise from your comfortable bed and have a moment of clarity in which you suddenly realize that everything that you’ve been working toward is a lie. No longer does your daily routine make any sense; no more do your compatriots share your ideals. It’s a moment like this that tests the measure of an individual’s character. Do you stay where you are, safe in your familiar environment with your familiar associates and hope that this sudden doubt goes away? Or do you take a more radical path and follow your instincts knowing that you’ll leave your current life behind? For one Viper, the choice was clear and so it was that Felix Stratton hot-wired a hydrofoil and blasted his way off Cobra Island. That day the Viper he had been was left behind and on that day Mercer was born.
Note: The Renegades team is comprised of Mercer, Taurus, and Red Dog. All three figures were originally sold together in the one of two three-packs that were released that year.
Mercer is a very “no frills” person at this stage of his life if his uniform gives any indication. Comprised of a padded orange vest and blue pants, it is one of the more basic character designs I’ve seen in the entire GIJoe line. Yet, there is a practicality that is evident in its simplicity. Mercer carries just what he needs and nothing more. A holstered revolver is slung over his left shoulder and pair of black utility pouches adorn the opposite side of his vest. His belt features two more compartments—one above each hip—that could be used to carry any number of smaller items. A silver watch is worn on his left wrist while his right hand is covered by a thick black glove. On his right bicep is some sort of silver circlet that I’ve yet to come up with a solid explanation for. Perhaps it’s a device similar to the “ankle bracelets” worn by certain prisoners today—an implication that the US Government doesn’t yet trust Mercer entirely. This would seem impractical for someone in his position, however, as it could eventually be used by opposing forces to track his movements. Is it some carryover from his days as a Viper or perhaps some item of personal significance? Whatever its origins, it adds an extra bit of detail to his otherwise bare arms. As I stated earlier, this is an extremely basic character design and yet it works well for someone who recently defected from Cobra. The padded vest evokes the image of the standard Viper uniform as do the boots that Mercer is wearing. It’s almost as if Felix isn’t quite ready to rid himself of every vestige of his Cobra training, even though his allegiance has changed. When faced with new surroundings, he is still possibly clinging to something vaguely familiar in order to provide some stability in his otherwise radically changed life. While I’m not entirely certain why Hasbro went with an orange vest, I’ve liked this character design since I first saw it in a Kmart store in Stevens Point, WI back in 1987.
Mercer’s head sculpt represents a bit of a contradiction to me. His file card art and his appearance in GIJoe: The Movie both depict a face with an extremely “hard set” expression. The toy sculpt, however, has a certain softness to the features that almost bely a friendly expression. Perhaps the sculptors were going for a more bemused expression but the set of the cheekbones and the slight upward turn at the corners of the mouth convey just the faintest hint of a smile. It’s a puzzling detail that doesn’t detract from my opinion of the character but it creates a bit of a conundrum of character when you first look at the figure. I’d expect a more cynical expression from someone who just left everything he knew behind to go and work “for the enemy”. The rest of the design is basic—and reflects someone very early in his military career. The features are youthful and the hair is molded cut short and clean which further solidifies my impression of Felix Stratton as a young no-nonsense soldier.
I’ve come to the opinion that a figure’s accessories say a great deal about the personality of the character. In this case, Mercer is someone who isn’t about the “shock and awe” but rather someone who prefers to work unobserved. He comes equipped with a silenced pistol and a back pack. No Viper-issue rifle (although Marauder’s NVR rifle works great with him), no heavy weapons—just a large silenced automatic and a basic gear back pack. It’s actually rather fitting for someone in a team like the Renegades to carry so little gear; when on a mission the team can scavenge much of their armaments from their foes making it that much harder to trace the activities back to the US Government. So, while some fans have stated that Mercer is light on gear I find his spartan choice of equipment rather fitting. Mercer isn’t the type of character who has time to grow attached to specialized equipment. After his defection from Cobra, he forms few attachments to people or objects. It’s a cynical view of the world but it’s exactly what I’d expect from a disillusioned former Viper-turned-black ops soldier.
Does this figure of Mercer make a worth-while addition to a RAH-era GIJoe collection? I’ll answer that with a resounding “yes!” The concept of the Renegades is an interesting one and is somewhat unique in the GIJoe mythos. The notion of a character who is a former Viper generates so many story possibilities it’s hard to know where to begin. His character design is simple yet practical and, in spite of his orange “life preserver”, is still quite believable. Even if you’re not a fan of the Renegade’s appearance in GIJoe: The Movie, you’ll find it hard to ignore the basic appeal of a character with Mercer’s background. With the Renegades playing a part in this year’s convention exclusives, my advice is to snag this figure and add him to your Joe collection before prices go up too much higher. A complete Mercer isn’t a figure that’s going to “break the bank” and he’ll make a terrific addition to any GIJoe roster.