If you asked ten different G.I. Joe fans what their favorite series of the toyline was, you could very well get ten different answers, but it’s pretty widely expected that G.I. Joe had it’s “hayday” in the mid 80’s, and went sharply downhill once the 90’s began. Well, anyone who knows me or has seen me post knows that I definitely do not subscribe to this notion, and in fact, I think there are just as many redeeming qualities about the 90’s offerings as there are with the 80’s.
In fact, 1990 almost seemed to bring about a renaissance, so to speak, of G.I. Joe. The main series that year got all new characters and all new figures, seemingly starting over from ground zero and kicking off with a whole new core team. New soldiers of all ranks and designations immediately came to the forefront, and the great thing about them all is that not many of them were heavily featured in any ongoing medium, so they all become somewhat “blank slates” to do with as you please.
Out of that first run in 1990, none baffle me more than Captain Grid-Iron. Hasbro seemed to really refine their focus this year, deciding to really focus on accessories and made a strong effort to make the figures much more military in design and purpose. Figures like Freefall, Bullhorn, Salvo, and Pathfinder had much more muted tones and much more overt military looks. But Captain Grid-Iron seemed to buck all those trends, using overly bright colors and a nearly ridiculous football theme from head to toe. Football helmet, elbow pads, and bizarre football-shaped grenades give him a downright strange sports theme a la Big Lob or the Fridge. If this was in 1993 or ’94, it might have been more expected, but amongst a new series of figures that seemed so entrenched in military realism, he stands out like a sore thumb, and in turn, gets a very bad rap. It’s a rap I don’t think he deserves.
First of all, in spite of his pigskin themed uniform and accessory compliment, Grid-Iron has a rock solid mold that has a lot of great potential. His head sculpt is more widely accepted as a “Fred Series” Crimson Guard custom than as the character it really represents, but the head sculpt is quite nicely sculpted with great character. Grid-Iron’s torso is a nicely thick and padded vest, which would appear to be for protection as well as warmth, indicating a possible cold-weather motif for the figure.
His limbs seem to carry on that cold weather theory, with quilted fabric cloth on the arms, and the overwraps on his legs. However these design elements carry more important tasks than to just insinuate coverings for a cold weather climate…they’re interesting and textural, and bring life to a mold that could have been drab, but ends up pretty neat. I really like the pattern on his arms, and I love those shin guards with the camouflage pattern. Both are nice ways to break up what could be a pretty straight-laced figure, and I really like those aspects. The fingerless gloves are another trait that I love and am all for wherever possible.
Of course the major complaint about this figure is a legitimate one…his colors. While the dull green vest and green camouflage arms and both very military and very nice, the yellow pants go pretty over the top. As bright as they are, though, the green knee-high cloth coverings do mask the brightness well and add some cool touches. Light gray trim goes over the belt, on the boots, and his pretty plain holster on his right leg. Really, when you think about it, the only bright spot on this figure are his upper legs, but this one small area of off color can sometimes ruin the feel of the entire figure.
The accessories do nothing to help the matter either. In 1990, it became obvious that Hasbro was refocusing attention on the gear that made the figure, and practically every character in this series came with a metric ton of accessories…Grid-Iron was no different. Unfortunately, the accessories Grid-Iron comes with are by and large garbage.
Even though his helmet is football based, I actually really like it. The overall design and protection value, combined with the neat clear visor, all make for a nice protective armored mask and add some great fun to the character. He also comes with a neat understated backpack, and a pretty neat, even if way oversized, pistol with silencer. Besides these items, though, everything else goes way overboard. Football-shaped grenades, a missile launcher the size of Rhode Island, four silly little missiles, and equally silly looking forearm guards are all pretty unnecessary, unwieldy, and unwelcome. While characters like Bullhorn and Salvo came with a ton of very cool (even if unrealistic) weapons, Grid-Iron got stuck with these rejects, and unfortunately the figure’s popularity suffers greatly from it.
Captain Grid-Iron has his faults…that much is pretty tough to deny. But if you look past some minor color issues, and get him some cool guns from Marauder, Inc. I think you’ll find yourself with a new high-ranking Joe character that is unexplored and fun. He’s got some great touches on his mold, he’s a fun figure to move and play with, and has a pretty empty back story to do with as you please. Grid-Iron is the definition of under-appreciated, and can be had at a cheap price, so I recommend grabbing one and checking him out for yourself.