Hot Topic is a strange place, and for the most part, I wouldn't recommend anyone over the age of 30 entering one unless you're prepared to be inundated by the weird side of pop culture. That includes the merchandise, the clientele, and for that matter, the clerks. The first time I bought something at a Hot Topic, the person who waited on me had multi-colored spiked hair, enough piercings to set off an airport metal detector from fifty feet, and tattoos down both arms. I have to admit, though, she was very polite.
Every so often, Hot Topic gets something interesting in that warrants a visit. Some years back, they had a series of T-shirts based on Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Masters of the Universe. In more recent times, they get in SOTA's Street Fighter action figures every so often, and the figures based on the HALO video games. And now they've gotten in this G.I. Joe. Still seems an odd fit, but -- whatever.
For those who may want a bit of a history lesson on the 12" G.I. Joe figure, it's not unfair to say that G.I. Joe, in 1964, essentially created the term "action figure". There really hadn't been anything like him before. Based on real-world military uniforms, G.I. Joe ruled the toy world for a good many years, and cultivated a devoted following that continues to this day, over 40 years later. Initially, there were four basic figures -- an Action Soldier, Action Sailor, Action Pilot, and Action Marine. The line would expand with a wide range of uniform and accessory sets, a poorly-received at the time but worth a small fortune now G.I. Nurse, and some extremely popular Soldiers of the World representing different nations and time periods.
But by the 1970's, real world events, including the unpopular war in Vietnam, caused G.I. Joe's popularity to slip. Not wanting to give up on their best-selling figure, Hasbro reworked the character into an Adventurer. Still dressed in military colors, the figure picked up a new logo, the now-legendary "AT" logo, and was now known by less military designations such as "Land Adventurer" and "Air Adventurer", and so forth. His accessory sets became less military, as well, but their contents and themes have made them some of the most popular collectibles in the line.
There were two major changes in the structure of G.I. Joe figures over the years. One was the advent of fuzzy hair. The other was -- KUNG-FU GRIP! Martial-arts movies, and martial arts in general, were extremely popular in the 1970's, and G.I. Joe figures were given new hands, molded in a rubbery plastic and with the fingers turned in. This actually allowed the figures to grasp and effectively hold small, lightweight objects, anything from his own weapons and accessories to more typical objects like full-size pencils and such. "Kung-Fu Grip" has virtually become a retro catch-phrase these days.
Hasbro isn't really producing much in the way of 12" G.I. Joe figures anymore. The so-called Classic Collection, which used an entirely new body type, had a very successful run from 1996 to about 2005, including quite a number of entries based on popular characters from the 3-3/4" series, as well as more real-world military figures. These were excellent figures for the most part. Hasbro also marketed a line of 12" figures, using a remade edition of the original body type, called the Timeless Collection, which was last used on the special 40th Anniversary Editions.
I bring this up because, apart from occasional offerings from the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club, it should be considered rather unusual for there to be a new 12" G.I. Joe figure at all -- let alone exclusive to a store such as Hot Topic. While I admit to wondering what brought all this about, I'm hardly complaining that it's happened.
And so, however it all came together, we now have the G.I. JOE ADVENTURE TEAM LAND ADVENTURER, complete with his "life-like hair and beard", and even -- Kung-Fu Grip!
The figure has proven enormously popular. Part of this is doubtless the extremely reasonable price. The Land Adventurer is only $14.99. Go try to get a decent 12" action figure of any sort for that price these days, let alone one with a legacy like this.
Let's start with the box. Trust me, the box is worth commenting on. It's a traditional "long box". These were used for G.I. Joes throughout their run, and it's a good design. It makes the most economical use of space. The average action figure these days comes with so much packaging you're lucky if you can find the toy. This is all part of marketing, designed to make the toy look as appealing and eye-catching as possible. Consider the fact that the G.I. Joe Sigma Six used blinking red LED's in their packaging to attract attention.
But the "long box" is just big enough to house a G.I. Joe figure. Period. And it's almost as legendary in its own way as the figures themselves. I'll admit I don't like the fact that the box is sealed. This isn't a window box, and you're sort of taking the chance that the figure inside is all right.
The box has the traditional G.I. JOE logo on it, along with the "Kung-Fu Grip" logo. The front of the box has a traditional painted illustration of the figure inside, basically a "waist-up" shot, showcasing the head, uniform colors, and hands.
The sides of the box showcase illustrations of accessory sets that were part of what made the Adventure Team as popular as it was. Those showcased on the Land Adventurer set include Black Widow Rendezvous, Fate of the Troubleshooter, Underwater Explorer, White Tiger Hunt (easily one of the most popular), Drag Bike, and Jaws of Death. Of course, there's a little disclaimer on the box that reads, "Products shown are for historical depiction only and are not currently available." At least not outside of heavily used versions usually found at toy conventions...
Even the Hasbro logo from the 1970's has been resurrected for use on the box, although the bottom of the box does use the modern logo, as well as modern copyright statements and the UPC, about the only things on the box that blow the overall image at all.
Then, of course, there is the figure. One difference from the 70's, where a G.I. Joe was just pretty much loose in his box, is that this Land Adventurer is placed on a box-fitting plastic shell and tied down with those cursed plastic coated wire twist-ties. Fortunately, in this instance, they weren't too hard to remove, and honestly, I'm glad the figure was restrained a bit.
This is really an excellent classic-looking 12" G.I. Joe figure. I'm certain that except for the hands, Hasbro simply used the Timeless Collection body and head sculpt, but they've really done a nice job with this figure. The "lifelike hair and beard" have been very well applied, and the "Kung-Fu Grip" hands have been very well reproduced. Although I have to say, I had a few of these Joes when I was a kid, and I don't recall the fingers being capable of independent movement. The first and second fingers of each hand on this guy can be moved, or at least flexed, separately. I don't believe that was the case 30 or so years ago.
The uniform is very nicely made. A superb recreation of the original dark camouflage design, and both the shirt and trousers use snaps -- no velcro here! It's also worth noting that the boots are made from rigid plastic, not flexible plastic as has been the case from time to time. Honestly, it wouldn't've bothered me one way or the other, but it's kind of cool that they made the figure as close to the original as possible. The boots do say "(c) 2003 Hasbro - 40th" on them, so clearly they've had prior use.
The uniform is completed with the "AT" logo on the shirt, and a pistol in a holster on a harness that the Land Adventurer wears across his chest.
Of course, the figure itself is supremely well-articulated, something that G.I. Joe has always been known for, and the minimal amount of paint on the head -- the eyes, eyebrows, lips, and traditional scar on one cheek, have been very neatly painted. I believe you could take this G.I. Joe 30 years into the past and no one would be able to tell the difference -- unless they noticed the copyright date on the boots -- and clearly that was the intention of this figure. It has succeeded tremendously well.
As I said, this G.I. Joe has proven to be enormously popular. It's certainly affordable to just about anybody's price range, which is no doubt a major part of its appeal.
In fact, a second figure in this line is already in the works. Exclusive to someplace called "Urban Outfitters" -- never heard of 'em myself -- they'll be getting an Adventure Team AIR ADVENTURER, done in the same overall style as this Land Adventurer. This could be something very cool if it continues.
Meanwhile, if you can still find one at this point, the G.I. JOE ADVENTURE
TEAM LAND ADVENTURER with Kung-Fu Grip definitely has my highest recommendation!