Back in the mid-80’s, wrestling was king of the entertainment world. Millions watched the ongoing rivalry between Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper, tuned into the first of the Wrestlemania events to watch Andre the Giant lose his title, and even watched “Wrestling Superstars” on CBS Saturday morning cartoons. The WWF (World Wrestling Federation—not to be confused with the World Wildlife Fund) and their marketing department launched into overtime with wrestling action figures, wrestling bed sheets, and even wrestling breakfast cereal. So it wasn’t surprising that when Hasbro sought to add in a “celebrity” figure to the Joe line they went to the talent pool of the WWF (now WWE for World Wrestling Entertainment). Enter a mail-away promotion, a slew of comic book appearances, and a debut in the ill-fated “GIJoe: The Movie” and Sgt. Slaughter came to join the GIJoe team.
When it comes to figures of Sgt. Slaughter, this version is by far my favorite. The first version (the mail-away) looked more at home in the wrestling ring than in a military unit. The second version improved upon that somewhat but still conveyed the impression of a professional wrestler instead of a military drill instructor. (Let’s just not talk about the Slaughter’s Marauders version, okay?) It wasn’t until this fourth version that Hasbro finally gave the Sarge a much more believable look that blended in with the rest of the Joes. First off, Sarge is wearing khaki pants and a brown vest. Over the top of the vest is slung a belt of ammunition while his right shoulder is covered with what appear to be red grenades. A sheathed knife is attached to his left side although Hasbro chose to leave it unpainted. His belt is olive drab with his service branch proudly displayed on the buckle. Sarge is a marine through and through and doesn’t care who knows it! His hands are covered by a pair of fingerless gloves. Sarge’s arms have been left bare which further showcases the muscular arms that the designers in Pawtucket saw fit to include as part of this design. Had any smaller arms been used, this design would have fallen apart—especially when compared to earlier versions of the figure. However, the end result is quite cohesive and this figure truly shines as an example of a realistic yet distinctive vehicle driver.
The Sarge’s strongest feature is also his greatest weakness. That’s right, I’m referring to his head sculpt and the sheer enormity of its size. I’m assuming that the sculptors at Hasbro were worried about capturing the Sarge’s likeness as perfectly as possible and so chose to “up scale” the head a bit. In that respect, they succeeded; the likeness of the wrestling star is darned near perfect. From his prominent chin to his clipped moustache to his strong brow, this is quite possibly the best representation of Sgt. Slaughter from his wrestling prime that I’ve ever seen. (Jakks Pacific could learn a few things from this figure.) Unfortunately, by scaling up the head Hasbro produced a figure whose head really belongs in another toy line—one set in at least a 4” scale! I realize that the RAH-era heads tend to run larger than the current GvC sculpts but even in comparison to sculpts from the 80’s the Sarge’s head is HUGE! Thank goodness that this figure and the original Cover Girl figure are incapable of breeding—the result would be Modok! (For more information on Modok, just Google “Marvel Legends 15” or check out past issues of the Fantastic Four.) One nice aspect of this figure is that Sarge’s “Smokey” hat is removable which gives the character a nice variance of appearance. It is, however, his only accessory.
I’ll be blunt—I don’t use Sgt. Slaughter as the super man he was portrayed as in “GIJoe: The Movie”. I’ve always been partial to his portrayal in the Marvel Comics series circa issue #48. The Sarge was a “tough as nails” drill instructor who was brought in to keep the team fit and fighting. He also served as a team leader when the Joes sought the recently-escaped Zartan. While Beach Head has always been the character in my Joe-verse who has the PT sessions that troops fear, he’s also called up on missions and so cannot fulfill that role all of the time. Sgt. Slaughter fits that role rather nicely—as well as being the trooper that handles the more “dynamic” recruits to the team. He also has functioned as the CO of the Renegades and takes great pride in the effectiveness of that three-man unit. I see him as one of the few people that Mercer actually respects and trusts outside of his team and is one of the key reasons that Mercer has stayed, however indirectly, in the employ of the United States government. He’s a dynamic leader and a powerful presence and, while he might not be performing Herculean feats of strength on the battlefield, he’s a trooper to be reckoned with and the team’s arm wrestling champ 5 times running.
As I’ve stated before, this is my favorite version of Sgt. Slaughter. While it’s a bit odd that he’s suddenly a “tanker”, this design is the most believable when seen on the battlefield. Less wrestler and more of a trooper, it offers fans and collectors the chance to have a figure that can be used in the field as opposed to a figure that exists solely to make a squad of Greenshirts cry. His lack of accessories is a bit lamentable yet the removable hat offers a terrific degree of variability for the character. So, while most fans are going to prefer the more movie-accurate second version, I’m standing behind my Warthog driver as THE Sgt. Slaughter in my collection. Just toss him a heavy machine gun and he’s ready to send people home in a ditty bag… an itty bitty ditty bag!