The first Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H. set was a Jungle-based set, with jungle-colored versions of a Night-Viper, one of my personal favorites, and a Frag-Viper, who was vastly improved for a new color scheme. The second Operation Flaming M.O.T.H. Set was a Desert-based set, which featured recolored versions of a Range-Viper, easily the best color scheme ever for this bizarre Cobra trooper, and a Flak-Viper, also very impressively done.
Now we have the "Pacific Theatre" set, so of course we're going to have an aquatic theme for this two-pack. And this time around, we have two G.I. Joe Team members -- Shipwreck and -- Chuckles!? Slightly odd choice with that second character, but in a way, it works. But let's consider Shipwreck first...
SHIPWRECK - Easily one of the best known G.I. Joe characters, Shipwreck first turned up in the 1984 animated mini-series, "The Revenge of Cobra", helping to pull a few Joes out of some trouble. Initially uncertain if Shipwreck could be trusted, the Joes decided that the salty sailor was basically one of the good guys, and he soon joined the team.
Shipwreck received a lot more attention in the animated series than he did in the comic book, and his somewhat over-the-top personality made him one of those rare exceptions in the Joe line where the animated characterization was given precedence over the comic-book characterization. In more recent times, Shipwreck's animated personality has been applied to the comic book and toy versions of the character, so to a degree, Shipwreck probably has a better sense of overall continuity than some of the other prominent individuals.
If we accept Shipwreck's origin story from the animated series, as told in flashback sequences when he had been captured by Cobra, as authentic, then Shipwreck grew up in the shadow of the San Diego Naval Yards, and enlisted in the Navy frankly earlier than he should've been able to by lying about his age. He became the quintessential sailor, able to weather any storm, and managed to get into his share of scrapes in exotic ports all over the world before finally encountering the G.I. Joe Team and signing on with them.
In the animated series, Shipwreck was sarcastic, abrasive, and as much of a womanizer as a cartoon would let him get away with. He was frequently played for comedy relief, but had his serious moments as well, most notably in the two-part episode "There's No Place Like Springfield", which seemed to put Shipwreck into a future in which he had settled down into a more peaceful life after helping to defeat Cobra. It was ultimately a sham, a trap laid by Cobra, and at the end, a heartbreaking one for the sailor.
Almost as well known as Shipwreck is Polly, Shipwreck's parrot, clearly a bird of above average intelligence, who is able to not just mimic human speech, but seems capable of near human thought, and is abundantly capable of sticking his beak where it doesn't belong. One of the more notable examples of this was during the "Springfield" episode, when Shipwreck, surrounded by synthetic clones of all of his friends and teammates, demands proof that the Polly he is speaking to is the genuine article, and Polly replies, "Remember that night in Annapolis...?" Shipwreck quickly shuts up the bird and tells him he believes him.
Toywise, the original Shipwreck was released in 1985. Clearly designed to be a fairly authentic-looking sailor, Shipwreck was wearing a light blue shirt, flared dark blue trousers, and a white sailor's cap. There wasn't anything all that outlandish about the appearance of the character, so the outlandishness was applied to his personality. The next Shipwreck figure would come along in 1994, outfitted in a diver's uniform, and supposedly having undergone training as a Navy SEAL, although how a misfit like Shipwreck ever got through the most rigorous training the Navy has to offer remains as much an unsolved mystery as the "night in Annapolis".
Shipwreck's appearance would change rather drastically in more modern times. He traded in his sailor's hat for a knit cap, his light blue shirt for a dark blue sweater, and his hair seemed to turn a lighter brown. In the comics, he was given long and rather scraggly hair, as though the time spent away from the Joe Team after it was disbanded had not been easy on the sailor. Recently, in the Devil's Due comic, he got a haircut and has hooked up with Cover Girl, much to the astonishment of his fellow Joes, so clearly life has improved for him.
The figure in the Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H. set is a superb figure, not identical to the original, but clearly based more closely on the original than any of Shipwreck's "Navy SEAL Diver" editions, which a lot of fans were never entirely comfortable with.
The head has been remade, although it is virtually identical to the original. The only difference is that with the original, the hat was a separately molded piece, permanently glued to the rest of the head. This time around, the entire head, including the cap, is a single piece, with the cap painted white instead of molded white. Suits me just fine. At least I won't have to worry about this cap discoloring and turning yellow.
The body used is actually that of Cutter, a Coast Guardsman first introduced in 1984 as the driver of the massive WHALE Hovercraft. This actually works very well, since the body has a very similar structure of a short-sleeved shirt and flared trousers. The only significant difference between the two is that Cutter's body mold has the figure wearing a life jacket, which actually looks good on Shipwreck, and is explained in the file card.
Shipwreck's tattoo has been duplicated, as has the rank insignia on the right sleeve, moved from the front of the sleeve to the side. Shipwreck's accessories include a short-barreled rifle, a knife, a transparent display base, and a reworked, more detailed version of Polly. I swear it looks like somebody sculpted this bird with a smart- aleck grin on its face.
Shipwreck's file card reads as follows:
Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H.
File Name: Delgado, Hector X
Primary Military Specialty: Gunners Mate
Secondary Military Specialty: Machinist
Birthplace: Chula Vista, CA
SHIPWRECK feels right at home both in and on the water, but his training as one of the elite Navy SEALs makes him the master of any environment. A knowledgeable chief with hands-on experience in most naval vessels up to frigate class, he is also a strong hand-to-hand fighter. And while his SEAL training mat have helped him overcome his somewhat flaky reputation among his fellow G.I. Joe Team members, he remains superstitious and never travels without two of his favorite things... a lucky vintage naval life vest and Polly, his parrot.
Shipwreck was patrolling the Hawaiian Islands for drug smugglers in his Piranha attack boat, when he received the call from G.I. Joe Headquarters. This ultra-classified assignment required him to pick up Chuckles, who was working undercover near his location, and together they alone must locate the components of the downed M.O.T.H. satellite. This top secret piece of U.S. Military hardware, a device whose most vital sections were designed to separate and survive re-entry in self-controlled descents on vectors spanning the globe, was sabotaged remotely by Cobra technicians - but must not be allowed to fall into the enemy's hands!
"The water is my turf, and I don't like to swim with snakes!"
So there we get a good explanation of the life vest he wears. It's also interesting that the file card makes reference to this being such an ultra-classified assignment that only he and Chuckles are on the case. This has led to a lot of speculation as to which side the fourth set of Operation Flaming M.O.T.H. will represent.
Nice mention of the Piranha attack boat, too. This was a very impressive little ship that was released a couple of years ago, a very nice vehicle addition to the G.I. Joe collection. I doubt you can find one anymore outside of a collectors' outlet, but I do recommend it. Now let's consider the other Joe Team member in this set:
CHUCKLES - This seems like an odd addition to an aquatic set, since it would seem that Chuckles' only justification for being in an aquatic set is his Hawaiian shirt. Incredibly, the Club actually managed to use that, indirectly, as a partial explanation for his presence in the area. But we're also talking about one of the more unusual individuals on the Joe Team.
What we have in Chuckles is a character that managed to climb the Joe Team ladder a fair bit almost despite a decidedly peculiar code-name and an almost-as-peculiar wardrobe penchant for tacky Hawaiian shirts.
The character was first introduced in the comics -- in an issue illustrated by Todd McFarlane, if you can believe it -- as one of a group of individuals who thought they had been recruited onto the G.I. Joe Team, but in fact hadn't been. It was a set-up by a corrupt general. Chuckles, an undercover operative (interesting specialty for someone with THAT sort of taste in shirts!) helped get to the bottom of the mess, and General Hawk, suitably impressed with how the group dealt with the matter, welcomed them onto the G.I. Joe Team for real.
Chuckles would continue to turn up, both in the regular title and "Special Missions", as a highly effective intelligence operative, a fairly large individual physically, whose demeanor was generally entirely serious even if we went through a far wider color range of Hawaiian shirts than the figure ever had (and wouldn't THAT have made for some interesting variants if they were doing that sort of thing in 1987?!). You might laugh at his code-name. You might find his shirts to be a fashion nightmare. But you didn't want to be on the wrong side of Chuckles. And a somewhat retconned history presented in "G.I.Joe: Declassified" indicates that he might well have been there from the beginning.
Chuckles didn't get much time in animation. The character was introduced in 1987, and the only animation that year was G.I. Joe: The Movie. Technically, Chuckles did turn up. He was one of a handful of new recruits that were designated the "Rawhides" by Beach-Head, who was training them. Interestingly, Chuckles never spoke, but he did manage to get one small high point in the movie during a training session, when he was supposed to fire a missile from his vehicle at a Cobra tank. The missile launching mechanism malfunctioned, and Chuckles, showing off some prodigious strength, lifted the canopy to the vehicle while Beach- Head was still standing on it, grabbed one of the vehicle's missiles, and physically THREW it at the Cobra vehicle!
Like I said, you didn't want to be on the wrong side of Chuckles...
Incredibly, there has only ever been one Chuckles figure released until now, the original one in 1987. I still think that if recolored variants had been popular in 1987 the way they are now, 20 years later (happy anniversary, Chuckles!), somebody should've considered doing some different-colored Hawaiian shirts for the guy.
The Chuckles figure for Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H. is an interesting one. The headsculpt is a remake of the original, but the body is actually that of Heavy Duty. Remarkably, it works pretty well. The original color scheme of the original Chuckles figure's wardrobe has been precisely duplicated, right down to the patterning on the shirt. Chuckles' shirt is light blue, with pink flowers with red centers printed on it, and green leaves. Chuckles' trousers are olive green (so at least there's SOME indication he's in the military), with black boots.
The main difference is that Heavy Duty's shirt, now Chuckles', is more rumpled-looking than the original, and the sleeves are molded to look torn off. The end result is a figure that sort of looks as though Chuckles was participating in the latest "Survivor" series or something. But it's still quite amazing how much these different body molds have been made to look like Chuckles just by using the original color scheme.
If I have one very minor complaint about the figure, it's that the metal rivets in the shoulders and elbows were not colored with a slight flesh tone. They were left silver. That hasn't happened since 1982. It's not a big deal, though, at all. It was just a little surprising, and this overall construction format is still my personal preference by far.
Chuckles' file card reads as follows:
Operation: Flaming M.O.T.H.
File Name: Provost, Philip M.
Primary Military Specialty: CID (Criminal Investigation Division)
Secondary Military Specialty: Intelligence
Birthplace: Little Rock, AR
CHUCKLES is the consummate G.I. Joe special agent. He has an uncanny ability to gain the trust of friend and foe alike, and disappear without a trace once he has what he came for. He has become particularly adept at feigning his own demise in order to facilitate moving on to his next mission, often leaving his own superiors at a loss as to whether or not he is still on active duty. His willingness to endure incarcerations, torture, or even the ultimate sacrifice rather than risk having his undercover status revealed to the enemy makes him one of the most vital, and fearless, members of the G.I. Joe Team.
Literally pulled out of his last mission by Shipwreck, the U.S. Military calls upon Chuckles to use his adaptive investigation skills to track down several pieces of the sabotaged M.O.T.H. satellite before Cobra can locate them. While Chuckles normally undergoes a lengthy debriefing and restocking of field technology at headquarters after every assignment, this time he is forced to hit the ground running and adapt like never before, enduring all ranges of climates and geography, on a multi-day mission around the globe - a mission so sensitive that no other G.I. Joe can even be called in to assist him. After this grueling mission... no one will be left laughing.
"Rule #1 is to complete the mission - Rule #2 is to make it out alive!"
That line about "feigning his own demise, often leaving his own superiors at a loss as to whether or not he is still on active duty" is fairly significant, since the character of Chuckles was, and I think I should say "apparently" now, killed off in an issue of the Devil's Due comic book.
Chuckles comes with a couple of very interesting firearms, some communication equipment, and a transparent display base. And if you combine Chuckles being pulled out of his last assignment by Shipwreck who was patrolling the Hawaiian Islands, you even get an explanation for the shirt.
On the whole, this is a very cool addition to the Operation: Flaming
M.O.T.H. series. You have one of the most popular characters of all
With the third set representing an oceanic environment, that pretty much just leaves an Arctic Expedition, and indeed, it was recently announced that OPERATION: FLAMING M.O.T.H. SET IV will indeed be arctic-based, and feature the SNOW SERPENT COMMANDER and an ICE-VIPER!
Meanwhile, the PACIFIC THEATRE set featuring SHIPWRECK and CHUCKLES definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!