Of all of the Renegades, Red Dog is the one that I see used the least. Whether in dio-stories or fanfics, or even in GIJoe: The Movie, the Samoan member of the team is usually relegated to the role of nothing more than “background character #7”. With little dialogue in the film and no comic appearances, Red Dog seems a character destined to fade into obscurity along with Deejay, Effects, and other single appearance Joes. Yet, does the character deserve such a fate or is there more to him than a cursory glance might suggest? Read on for this Joe fan’s opinion of the Renegades “loose cannon”.
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.
Red Dog’s file card states that he “could have had a pro football career as a barefoot place kicker...” and that influence is obvious in his uniform. Wearing similar attire to Mercer, David Taputapu is clad in blue pants and black boots. Instead of an orange vest, however, he’s wearing a long sleeve football jersey emblazoned with the number “1”. Over the top of his jersey is a black harness that connects to what appears to be a black back support brace. (Think those blue harnesses that you see the stock crews at retail stores wearing and you’ve got the right idea.) A holstered pistol is worn on his right thigh with a spare clip strapped just above the knee. Red Dog’s Samoan heritage is also prominent in his uniform by means of a gold head band, necklace, and a fairly ornate belt buckle. Each wrist is also adorned with a gold bracelet with the left forearm actually encircled by a rather serpentine spiraled piece of jewelry. Red Dog seems to have taken a fairly bland uniform and personalized it with both his career past and his cultural heritage. The end result is a uniform that is quite distinctive albeit very similar to Mercer’s in color.
Red Dog’s head sculpt does a terrific job of capturing his ethnic heritage. His features are more widely spaced across his rounded head than many of the more European-descended characters. His nose is rather broad and his lips are extremely full while his collar bones are rather prominent—all in keeping with the facial characteristics of a native of the island of Samoa. His eyebrows (the right one in particular) are arched resulting in an almost quizzical expression—which is the only trace of emotion shown in his countenance. Red Dog strikes me as someone who isn’t “humorless” but it extremely serious most of the time. Remember the character of Billy from the movie “Predator”? When the rest of Blaine’s team was cracking jokes Billy was always deadly serious and rather quiet. He’s not emotionless but his emotions are kept in check—until something makes him made. After that, it’s best to move to minimum safe distance until the rage has passed. Like the rest of the Renegades, Red Dog comes equipped with just a pistol and a back pack—a reissue of the one that original came with Dusty back in 1985. His pistol, however, is an entirely new piece. It’s quite similar to the automatic that came with Shockwave (1988) and I’ve seen many Red Dog figures listed as “complete” that include the Shockwave pistol. It is a completely different piece, however, and care should be taken to avoid this mistake when purchasing a complete figure.
So, I’ve described Red Dog’s character design and his head sculpt and gear, but what does all of this tell me about his character. His file card actually states very little about him other than the fact that he’s an infantry trooper. The final paragraph of his dossier portrays him as someone who almost goes into a berserker rage: “they simply point Red Dog in the right direction and wait for the dust to settle.” However, when I see the character I can’t help but conjure up images of the character of Martin Riggs from the “Lethal Weapon” series of films. Riggs was someone who, as a result of the death of his wife, could literally snag at any second—sometimes almost descending into a “red rage”. While I don’t see Red Dog as quite an affable character as Riggs, it’s easy to see the two men sharing the same darker side of their personalities. Something happened to Red Dog in his past that causes him to literally “lose it” at times. He’s not uncontrollable, as the file card might indicate, but he’s definitely someone who can lose all sense of his own well-being when he gets angry. As such, I see Red Dog as a very physical character. Sure he could take the time to try and pick the lock on the secured door but it’s much quicker just to knock it down. Why take the time to remove a part from the HISS tank’s engine when you can just blow it up with a block of C4 instead? This is the attitude that I see as the driving force behind Red Dog’s personality. He’s not a rage-filled berserker barely able to be controlled. He is someone who has a very quick temper and has learned to channel that anger most of the time and yet, when the situation warrants it, is able to let it loose, harness it, and use it as means to an end.
Red Dog has always been the least dynamic character in the Renegades. With a fairly limited file card that devotes as much text to his team as it does to his personality, it’s pretty easy to see him getting lost in the shuffle. Yet, if someone is willing to look at the character and extrapolate a personality from all of the details a surprisingly interesting character emerges. I’ll be honest—he’s probably my least favorite of the trio that comprises “Pentagon Pest Control” but he’s still a figure that I feel is worth acquiring. There are enough interesting details to make him unique without resulting in him standing out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the Joes. His obscurity also plays to a collector’s advantage in that Red Dog figures typically don’t command too high of a price in the secondary market. Snag a Red Dog, complete the Renegades, and feel confident in your purchase. Besides, how can you resist a guy named after a beer who works for “Pentagon Pest Control”?