Review & pics by Fred Meyer & Justin Bell
Mercenary - Code name: Major Bludd

  Review & pics by Fred Meyer & Justin Bell

When it comes to signature characters in Cobra, few have stood the test of time as well as Sebastian Bludd. Introduced in 1983, the Australian mercenary was an instant hit with fans of both the cartoon and comic book continuities where his cocky swagger and ever-changing loyalties allowed him to stand out in a sea of “Cobra blue”. Released in multiple versions over the years, many fans still defaulted to the debut version as Bludd’s “signature look” and it was from that premiere uniform that Hasbro sought it’s inspiration for the 25th Anniversary edition of Cobra’s most distinctive mercenary. After two-and-a-half decades, the popularity of Sebastian Bludd has remained—so does the figure live up to the hype? Read on, and find out the opinions of two Joe fans.

It’s a well established fact with the 25A style of construction that Hasbro is trying to get as much mileage of every tool that has been produced. Repaints and parts reuses abound in this “no-ring” style of construction trading a lack of parts diversity for an increased roster of figures and characters. In the case of Major Bludd, “what was old is new again” as the body of the controversial Zartan figure is resurrected in order to give ole Sebastian some life. There have been virtually no changes to the body itself, save for the right arm (which will be covered later) and the removal of the knife sheath from the right boot. The pants have been molded in brown with the sculpted pads on the legs given a darker brown paint application; the left harm has also been produced in brown plastic with glossy black painted highlights used on the molded arm panels. The figure’s gloves, boots, and belt are all black and retail their “Dreadnok” sculpting—the chain is still present on the left wrist and the skull is still present on the belt buckle. IN order to replicate the green patches found on the 1983 version’s arm, there is an odd green stripe on the inside of the left arm but it honestly comes across more as a stray paint application than an intentional detail. There is, however, a green stripe on the out seam of Bludd’s pants. The figure’s chest armor and the bottom of his shirt have been painted black while the upper collar of the shirt has been painted brown.

I realize that Hasbro needed to find a way to squeeze more uses out of the Zartan mold that was produced last year but this wasn’t the way to go for Major Bludd. While the body mold that was used for Flash/Grand Slam/HISS Driver has seen a lot of use recently, the torso from that mold, with its sculpted collar and full chest armor, bears a much stronger resemblance to the original Major Bludd mold than Zartan’s character design does. A clever parts substitution of Cobra Trooper legs and Trooper left arm onto the Flash body would have completed a much closer approximation to Bludd’s original uniform than repainting Zartan’s form and simply “calling it a day”. The torso looks sloppy—with the armor and lower shirt painted the same color while the shirt’s collar is an entirely different hue. The random green stripe on the left arm looks worse by it’s inclusion in the design as it has no clear purpose. Honestly, I’ve seen custom Zartan figures produced by fans on a myriad of boards that look closer to production level than this ill-conceived mish-mash of parts and I honestly fail to see how, given the decision to release the figure based on existing tooling that this was the best possible combination that the folks in Pawtucket could come up with. I’ll leave it to Justin to decide as to whether or not I’m being a bit too critical of this parts usage. (That is if I can tear him away from GTA IV!)

Not now, Fred, I’ve gotta pop some caps in some drug dealers!

In all seriousness, when it comes to the reused parts, I’m not nearly as critical as Fred over which parts have been used for existing figures as long as it’s done well. To me, this version of Zartan didn’t really fit the classic character and since we’re evidently getting an updated Zartan down the road, I didn’t mind so much when we discovered the tooling was going to be reused for Bludd, since he would end up looking different from the default Zartan anyway. So as long as Hasbro used some creative energy and gave us some interesting tweaks and differences to really identify this as Bludd, I didn’t think there would be an issue.

Well, as it turns out I’m sorry to say, many aspects of this figure are an absolute failure in an attempt to translate the first, most infamous COBRA Mercenary to the 25 th Anniversary realm.

Up to this point for the most part Hasbro has shown some adeptness at reusing parts and pieces to get more characters shoe-horned out of existing tooling. As I’ve said, I have absolutely no problems with that at all when it’s done well. With Bludd it’s done very, very poorly. Poorly in almost every avenue.

Fred is right, every identifiable Dreadnok-type traits of Zartan from his thigh pads to his skull belt buckle and his chain bracelets is translated perfectly with Bludd, and you end up with a figure that is very out of character. But what really kills me about this figure is that even the new tooling that Hasbro did spring the cash for ends up missing the mark as well. The existing tooling isn’t even the worst part of the figure.

If the body of Zartan is “something old” then fans can turn to the figure’s head, arm, and accessories for “something new”. After numerous delays to get the figure “just right”, Bludd has finally hit the pegs with a brand-new head sculpted. Sporting some thick cheekbones, his trademark eye patch, and his well-coiffed moustache, this is the visage of Sebastian Bludd that fans have come to know and love (or in the case of GIJoe – revile) over the years. This is a sculpt that goes back to the original 1983 version and the homage is plainly obvious in terms of the design, right down to the plain black helmet that tops Sebastian’s noggin. However, unlike some early-release figures that showed up on Ebay late last year, don’t try removing Bludd’s helmet. All that waits underneath that shiny black head protection is a sculpted bald head. Overall, Bludd’s head serves as a decent update of the original character's noggin save for one key detail -- his expression. Bludd is clearly sculpted with what I can only assume is intended to be an open mouth snarl. This sculpting might work if it weren’t for the fact that the mouth and head are covered in flesh toned paint. Without any sort of paint highlights, Bludd’s mouth comes off as less of a snarl and more of a vacant drooling expression. Apparently this figure is intended to be the “just decked by Gung-Ho” version of the character and is missing the ring of stars swirling around his forehead. After the delays to get the figure “just right”, I had expected better. I’m sure Justin has more to elaborate on the head sculpt at this point.

Well, I have some faith that the original Bludd head must have been awful, because delaying the figure for two waves simply to give us what we got leaves a lot of fans (myself included) wanting more. I don’t have any issues with the sculpting of Bludd’s head, as it looks fairly “in character” and is very nicely detailed, but when we first started seeing some early test shot pictures, Bludd had a removable helmet. I’m very curious to know where that went, considering the head sculpts we saw with the removable helmet didn’t look that bad at all. I’m sure there are some issues we’re all not aware of that necessitated the Major’s delay, but with a few months of being pushed back, I guess I was expecting something a bit more than a pseudo kitbash.  

Of course his head sculpt isn’t helped at all by the fact that his stolen dogtags ride up under his chin like a turtleneck…just another part of this figure that just doesn’t work as well as it could.

Bludd’s right arm has been the subject of fan debate for years. Is it a cybernetic arm? Is it some form of arm protection for his rocket pistol? Why has it never shown up on any subsequent version of the character released in the past 25 years? In keeping with the homage to the 1983 version, Hasbro sculpted a highly-detailed three-fingered update of the original arm. It’s an accurate update to the original, right now the square-paneled forearm with the cross-hatched panels on the sides. There are even a series of sculpted rivets (or buttons) along the very top of the black arm where it joins with the “normal brown cloth” of Sebastian’s battle gear. The downside of this faithful recreation is that, just like the 1983 version, this arm possesses absolutely no elbow articulation whatsoever. As a result, Sebastian’s arm is only poseable at the wrist and shoulder and is permanently bent in a “Duke arm” angle. I’m honestly torn on this—as I never really used my original Major Bludd figure as a young Joe fan because of his fixed right arm. This is a great homage to the original but I think the figure would have been better received in my eyes had this arm been at least as poseable as Duke’s. Bludd comes equipped with his original rocket pistol and a backpack with three extra removable rockets. The mini-munitions sit rather well on the pistol but tend to fall out of the backpack a bit too easily for my liking. More than likely, I’m just going to permanently affix the spare projectiles into the backpack and not worry about losing this particular feature.

Well, there’s no debate whatsoever in my mind…only one of Bludd’s figures has EVER featured a metallic arm, so it’s clear to me it’s an armored protective sleeve to safeguard his hand and arm from the rocket launching pistol. I mean, his Sonic Fighter version didn’t have a robotic arm, nor did his Battle Corps version, or the Chinese version that everyone loves so much. In fact, his 2000 version, his DTC version, and his Convention Exclusive version all sported relatively normal right arms as well (not to mention him being featured in the comics multiple times with a normal right arm) so I’m not sure why there’s even a debate.

That little tirade aside, this was the perfect chance to take an iconic part of an iconic character and really kick some ass with it. Sculpt a nice cartoon-accurate armored right arm, articulate it to the hilt, and give us all the ultimate Bludd parts we’ve always wanted.

Instead we got some mangled mish-mash of his previous versions with the lack of an elbow joint as some sort of strange “homage” to the original. In my mind, these figures are meant to capture the timeless “essence” of the original characters and figures, but because of the changes in sculpting and design these days, I’d think we’d get improvements wherever possible. But no, we got the same nearly immobile bland hunk of plastic dragging off of his right shoulder that we’ve gotten since day one. Very, very disappointing. Even more disappointing is that the actual sculpting of the arm is excellent and is fairly reminiscent of how it looked in the cartoon…but with the lack of an elbow joint, you end up with the same non-functional prosthetic that weighed the figure down twenty-four years ago. It’s a shame. This is another figure like the COBRA Viper that would have had a ton of potential, but ended up wasting some of it with some strange creative choices behind the scenes. Here’s hoping we get some sort of new version of Bludd down the line with some much-needed improvements, as he’s too central a character to get saddled with these sub-standard new parts.

Fred mentioned the accessories, too, and I just have to echo what he said. I love the idea of the removable rockets in his backpack, but they do not stay attached, and what could have been a very cool added accessory is forever regulated to a storage drawer just so I don’t risk losing pieces.

Wow—this is a figure that I was really looking forward to and yet, now that I have him in hand, I’m not certain how I feel about him. I think the best description of this version of Major Bludd is “almost but not quite”. Hasbro almost captured Bludd’s uniform with the color scheme that they used but didn’t quite make it with the body choice. They almost nailed the head sculpt but didn’t quite make it with the fixed helmet and barely-intelligent expression. They almost perfected Bludd’s right arm but never quite succeeded due to the lack of articulation. (The same holds true for his accessories and how easily they fall from the backpack.) Much like the Viper in 2008 wave 3, I find myself more disappointed with this figure than I do find myself excited about having him in hand. After such fantastic updates of characters like Tomax & Xamot, Wild Weasel, HISS Driver, and others I cannot fathom that this release of Major Bludd is an example of Hasbro’s best work. Bludd is a fan-favorite and a figure that a great many hard-core collectors and casual fans are likely to want to acquire. He’s perennially been on lists of characters that fans have wanted to see updated since the relaunch of G.I. Joe with GvC back in 2000. As a result, I would have expected a much more polished final product than this for a figure that was sure to be high on so many fans’ lists of necessary inclusions in the line. Perhaps Justin can offer up a more positive closing statement regarding Major Bludd but I find myself nothing if not truly disappointed in this oft-delayed version of Cobra’s original mercenary.

I wish I could, but I can’t at this point. There are some positives about this Bludd figure…the sculpting on his arm is great…pretty terrific, actually, but the lack of a functional elbow joint just detracts too much from the potential coolness of the new tooling. His head sculpt is pretty good, too, all told, and would be a great foundation for a future Major Bludd if Hasbro were so inclined. I’m not even married to the removable helmet idea, though I would love to see it.

Major Bludd is definitely one of the fandom’s favorite unique characters, and I think it’s just disappointing that he doesn’t quite live up to snuff. Again, I don’t even mind so much that Zartan’s tooling was reused, I’m just disappointed that the new tooling that was added seemed fairly below par. I’ve expected better from the very talented folks on the Joe design team to this point, and Bludd just doesn’t seem to live up to their very highly set standards.



Copyright 2003