We enjoy pretty comprehensive news coverage in our modern world. Whether via the television, newspaper, internet, or even cell phone our society is always connected to what is going on in the world. In fact, this is something that we almost take for granted. I can recall back in 2003 when the US Military staged “Operation: Iraqi Freedom” sneaking glimpses of CNN.com on my work computer—desperately trying to find out the latest progress of our troops as they entered the territory of the Republican Guard. As part of a new, more open policy “embedded reporters” were attached to various military units, living with the troops 24/7 and reporting back on the status of the operation. It was a move designed to give the American people unprecedented access to events taking place half-way across the world. However, this concept was not entirely new—reporters had traveled with troops in World War 2 and even further back. Even GIJoe had its own “Information Specialist” who accompanied the team on operations. He was a tribute to NBC correspondent Mike Leonard; Joe fans around the world knew him primarily as “Scoop”.
For me, Scoop’s character design is a myriad of conflict. Normally I dislike excessively bright colors when used for the Joes and yet I find this design to be one of the most visually appealing from the late 80’s. Following in the steps of Airtight in 1985 and Lightfoot in 1988, Scoop has adopted the “don’t-shoot-me” yellow and green” sported first by the Joe team’s “hostile environment” and “explosives expert” troopers. It’s a color scheme that is impossible to miss—even through satellite imagery! However, it’s a color scheme that makes sense, at least to me. Characters like Life-line, Airtight, and Lightfoot are troops that you don’t want getting shot by mistake. They also have specialties where an instant visual identification can come in handy. (“Hey, should I ask that guy in yellow what he’s working on right now?”) Such distractions can mean the difference between life and death for those around them, at least in my view of the world of GIJoe. Scoop is another person is marked by his color scheme—this time as a non-combatant. There’s no better way than to lose sympathy for your cause in combat than by killing a reporter, (Just play Pandemic’s “Mercenaries” game and you’ll see what I mean.) and Scoop’s color scheme allows him that “quick identification” that just might save his life in the field.
Aside from his color scheme, Scoop’s mold has some really terrific detailing. The basic design is that of a yellow jumpsuit with a green vest over the top. However, it’s not his uniform but rather the molded details that make this character just come to life! His left wrist sports a small device with a diminutive keypad and screen. This could function as anything from a basic sound and light meter to an early form of “Joe-Com”. Around his neck is a pair of binoculars and a .35mm camera. (Sorry folks—this is before the days of digital photography so Leonard’s packing extra film just to the right of his binoculars.) His right thigh features a post that connects to his camera via the included rubber hose. This might be some type of RF modulator which processes the signals from his field camera before they’re stored or even relayed via his backpack back to the CIC. Yet Scoop at least has some basic combat training as he’s also got a small pistol stored in a holster on his left ankle. This shows that he’s not entirely “non-combat” and can hold his own in a tight situation. To top it off the entire mold is loaded with folds and wrinkles in the fabric of his uniform, giving the design a very realistic appearance in spite of the color scheme. The result is a truly solid design and is one of the most visually interesting figures of the late ‘80s.
As stated earlier, Scoop is one of those figures that are based on a real person—in this case Mike Leonard, correspondent for NBC News. It would seem that Hasbro also used Leonard as the basis for the character’s head sculpt and the result is a mold that is surprisingly accurate for being a product of the age before “Real Scan Technology”. Oddly enough, finding a good picture of Mike Leonard isn’t as easy as it sounds as most of his work is done “behind the camera”. Still from the images I’ve been able to find, this is a reasonable facsimile of the feature correspondent circa 1988. From the slightly bemused expression to the wavy hair, Scoop’s sculpt is full of personality and this helps the figure to stand out from Lightfoot who many perceive to be Scoop’s “twin brother”.
Scoop is a figure who is loaded with gear—although not all of it is entirely user-friendly. Equipped with a backpack, helmet with boom mike, silenced pistol, rubber hose, and the oddest camera I’ve ever seen, Scoop’s complement of equipment rivals that of the most equipped combat figure. His backpack, much like that of Dial-tone, appears to serve as a communications relay at least based on the large dish located on the back. There is also a small hollow post on the back which mates perfectly to a post on his camera—essentially giving Scoop the ability to sling his primary piece of gear. His camera is another story altogether. I’m not really sure exactly what Hasbro was going for with this piece; even in the late 1980’s I don’t quite recall seeing television cameras quite this large. Sure it’s got the requisite microphone attachment and an insanely large lens but it’s also got a goose neck view finder that is no way is useable by the figure. There is no way short of breaking the figure’s thumbs off to align the view finder to Scoop’s eye and still have the camera in anything resembling a believable filming stance. If only I could find a smaller more modern-looking camera I could have Leonard capturing combat footage again. Unfortunately with a rig this size, it’s just not practical.
So, how does one use an “Information Specialist” on the GIJoe team? I struggled with this notion a few years back until I started watching “ALIAS” on ABC. It was the character of Will Tippen, a reporter turned CIA analyst, which brought Scoop’s role on the team into sharp focus. Scoop is primarily a reporter and as such has a reporter’s instincts. He can focus on the minutest of details and then follow that lead back to a much larger story. With Cobra operating so many covert units around the globe, Scoop is just the guy to uncover the most hidden of connections between front companies and Cobra or other terrorist organizations. He’s the guy who pores over Intel reports and pieces together the “big picture” from snippets found here and there. He’s also the guy who releases the occasional footage to a network or other news outlet—removing any mention of classified material first. Once I hit upon this role for Leonard it wasn’t hard to see just how valuable he might be to an organization like GIJoe.
I owe a good friend of mine an apology. Back when I lived in Massachusetts, he first introduced to me to his favorite Joe (Scoop) which resulted in several years of me poking fun of the character whenever I was given the opportunity. I had written him off as a gaudily-colored waste of plastic and couldn’t see why anyone would want him in their collection. However, after acquiring the figure for myself I began to see just how an “Information Specialist” could be useful to an elite unit such as GIJoe. Part PR man, part analyst, and part newshound, Scoop fills a vital support role for the team as they work to make the world just a little safer each day. Combine that with a highly-detailed sculpt and terrific character design and the end result is a figure that is most dynamic and distinctive. He may walk the line between practical and gaudy but he walks it well and never teeters over to the “Eco-Warriors” side. In the end, I can heartily recommend Scoop as a very diverse addition to any GIJoe collection, taking his place either in the field or back at headquarters.