REVIEW: G.I. JOE SEYMOUR "SCI-FI" FINE
One of the things I really appreciate about the 30th Anniversary G.I. Joe figure line, is its willingness to bring some of the more unusual, and yes, specifically, colorful figures from the original Real American Hero line into the modern figure format.
I can understand that there are those who would prefer to see G.I. Joe stick to darker, more realistically military colors, and as of this writing, I have little doubt that the line shall do so once again, once it starts presenting toys based on the second movie.
However, I've always been find of some of the more "over-the-top" characters. I've long maintained that, unlike its original 12" counterpart, which was very specifically dedicated to the real-world military, or at least as close as it was possible for the toys to get, the 3-3/4" concept has always been more character-based. Yes, the adventures were more or less military in nature. The G.I. Joe team would probably be best described as a large unit of highly-trained specialists from the combined United States Armed Forces (and a few international representatives), dedicated to the specific task of putting a stop to the plans of the international terrorist organization known as Cobra.
And somewhere along the way, the uniform code book went out the window and never came back, except when they had to put on their dress uniforms for visiting brass. One almost wonders if members of the G.I. Joe team took a look at some of the increasingly wild uniforms that Cobra specialist troopers were turning up in, and wondered why the heck they were still bothering with olive drab camouflage.
The colorful tendencies of G.I. Joes from about midway through the run of the original line to its end certainly received its share of criticism from some of the more hard-line fans, which might explain why the color schemes have been rather dramatically scaled back ever since. Fair enough -- that doesn't mean there haven't been some interesting individuals along the way. Certainly there have.
And yet, in all honesty, I missed the greater color palette, and some of the wilder uniform designs. Fortunately, it would seem that somebody at Hasbro did, as well, and has made an effort to squeeze at least a few of them into the 30th Anniversary line while there was still a good chance to do so.
Without question, one of the wilder uniform designs to come along in the original line, and certainly it was given a distinctive and decidedly bright color scheme, belonged to a character first introduced in 1986, who's always been a personal favorite of mine. He goes by the name of SCI-FI. His real name is "Seymour P. Fine", which had to be used as part of his trademarked name this time around, and is arguably as close to matching his real name to his code name as it's possible to get and still have a reasonable real name. We can't all be "Albert 'Alpine' Pine", after all.
When Sci-Fi was first presented in 1986, he was the G.I. Joe team's new Laser Trooper. That somewhat unusual specialty had first belonged to a character introduced in 1982, who went by the name of Flash -- and it's a wonder DC Comics didn't pitch a fit about it even then. Flash wouldn't return for a very long time, and then, much as any number of other characters have had to do, doubtless all for legal reasons, he was officially listed as "Anthony 'Flash' Gambello", his real name.
Although part of the 1982 line, which was hardly known for being all that distinctive in appearance, Flash managed. His uniform, though predominantly a very military green like everybody else's except Snake-Eyes and Scarlett, had rather fancy brown gloves, and thick red padding on the chest, arms, and legs, the chest padding clearly held in place with a silver harness. Flash honestly didn't look all THAT futuristic. Hasbro clearly intended to split the difference between a realistic soldier, and something a little more fanciful, a technology that wasn't quite there yet, and hence futuristic, and succeeded admirably.
By the time Sci-Fi came along in 1986, the G.I. Joe team members were much more individualistic in appearance. As far as that goes, Flash shared his uniform design with a second 1982 figure, Grand Slam, who came with a large boxed weapon known as the Heavy Artillery Laser. But by 1986, the G.I. Joes were much more unique, distinctive, and not necessarily specifically military, although for the most part they were reasonably plausible. One could, without difficulty, imagine encountering someone dressed like Flint, or Footloose, or Recondo, on a battlefield.
Then along comes Sci-Fi with his bright green and silver uniform, looking very futuristic, very high-tech, more or less along the lines of, "George Lucas' stormtroopers wish they looked this cool!", and as far as G.I. Joe uniform designs and colors were concerned, all bets were pretty well off.
Some people really didn't like Sci-Fi. Me? He was instantly one of my personal favorites, and remains so to this day. I was a science-fiction fan long before I was a G.I. Joe fan. I had Mego's Star Trek figures in the mid-1970's. I had Kenner's Star Wars figures in the late 1970's. I'd watched the original Battlestar Galactica. I'd watched Buck Rogers. And in a year's time, I'd be glued to the TV for the premiere of Star Trek The Next Generation. If G.I. Joe wanted to bring in a new team member that looked more like he belonged in the science-fiction realm than in the military, that was fine with me.
Sci-Fi never got a lot of play in the comic book, as I recall. By 1986, Larry Hama had pretty well established the major players, and they consisted first and foremost of Snake-Eyes, Scarlett, Storm Shadow, Duke, Cobra Commander, Baroness, and Destro, with certain other notable characters finding there way in to certain prominence when appropriate, such as Flint, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, and a few others. Sci-Fi just never really got a lot of attention there.
The animated series was a different matter entirely. 1986 was the second season of the original animated series, and understandably, Hasbro wanted the new faces given as much screen time as possible, to promote them for the benefit of the toy line. Thus, characters such as Beach-Head, Lifeline, Slipstream, Lift-Ticket, Leatherneck, Wet-Suit, as well as General Hawk, who received a new figure in 1986 and up until now had been left out of the animated series in favor of Duke, all came in at various levels of prominence. As did Sci-Fi.
Even here, he didn't fare as well as some. Beach-Head was made fourth in command of the G.I. Joe team, and Leatherneck and Wet-Suit were used for a certain amount of comedy relief, constantly squabbling over whether Marines or Navy SEALs were tougher.
Nevertheless, Sci-Fi did receive one showcase episode, alongside Sgt. Slaughter. In a hilarious send-up of not only the science-fiction genre, but science-fiction conventions (which Lord knows needed a send-up), Sci-Fi and the Sarge traveled to a local science-fiction convention to protect a scientist that they believed Cobra was after, who had invented a massive new weapon called the "Voltronic Galaxidor" -- which alone should tell you about how serious this episode was.
Sci-Fi, being a fan of sci-fi, was right at home at the convention, in full uniform, no less. Dressed as he was, he might as well have been undercover, much to Sgt. Slaughter's surprise and consternation. The Sarge was the proverbial fish out of water, and gazing around the science-fiction convention, wondered what some of these people were doing out without their handlers. This from a professional wrestler...
The episode poked some great fun at traditional convention activities. A battle between Sci-Fi and the Sarge versus Dr. Mindbender and some Dreadnoks was seen as a demonstration, nothing more, and as such totally harmless. Overall, the episode gave Sci-Fi a somewhat over-the-top but not inappropriate spotlight.
Figure-wise, Sci-Fi would return in 1991, in a far more subdued costume of dark gray and black with a limited amount of orange trim. This costume would be recolored in 1993, as Sci-Fi joined the Star Brigade special team, as the pilot of one of their vehicles. In 1994, Sci-Fi would receive an all-new costume, still part of Star Brigade, and arguably one of the most complex and ornate costumes in the entire series.
After that, sadly, the character pretty much vanished. The molds of the original figure would turn up in Brazil, used on other characters through Estrela's G.I. Joe line. Within the G.I. Joe brand itself, its post-1994 continuation, anyway, the 1991 body molds would actually be used quite effectively for a new Cobra trooper. But Sci-Fi himself did not appear. Wanting to maintain a somewhat more realistic motif, there just wasn't room for a fancy, colorful Laser Trooper on the G.I. Joe team throughout the newsculpt era, or the 25th Anniversary-style figures, and certainly not in the first movie.
I tend to be very selective with my modern-style G.I. Joes. I still regard myself as a fan of the original line first and foremost. But I am a fan of G.I. Joe as a concept, and when a new figure comes along that catches my attention, I will certainly buy it. When I learned that Sci-Fi, in his original bright green and silver uniform, was to be added to the 30th Anniversary line of modern-style G.I. Joe action figures, I knew I had to have him. Sci-Fi was back, in the modern figure style, in his original uniform!
So, how's the figure? Really outstanding, although oddly enough, his package refers to him as an "Elite Combat Trooper" for some unknown reason. What, "Laser Trooper" isn't good enough for him anymore?
Sci-Fi's uniform is -- decidedly atypical. Sci-Fi is wearing a helmet that looks like it's half Robocop and half Halo. It's mostly silver, with green trim on the top near the front and back, a thick black visor, and a thick, padded chin strap. It's clearly designed to be protective, as is much of the uniform.
On the original Sci-Fi figure, the helmet was not removable. This one is. Now, we would get to see what Sci-Fi looked like without a helmet in 1991, as his 1991 version did feature a removable helmet, revealing Sci-Fi to have black hair and eyebrows. With this newest Sci-Fi, the head underneath the helmet is wearing a protective secondary helmet, tight-fitting to the head, dark gray in color with a white stripe down the center of it. As such, his hair does not show. However, the figure's face is fully on display, and his eyebrows have been painted black, so I think it's reasonable to assume that Sci-Fi has retained his hair color.
Sci-Fi's uniform can probably be best described thusly. He is wearing a very bright green jumpsuit, clearly designed to be protective, with a very futuristic silver chestplate with a series of vertical bright green stripes down it. There are black stripes at the shoulders, and he is wearing black gloves, with some sort of device strapped to his wrists, also black.
Sci-Fi has a black belt with a silver buckle, small pouches on the fronts of his legs, containing some sort of small rectangular devices, painted black, and very futuristic, armored-looking silver boots. He also has a black collar.
That's the 1986 Sci-Fi. As such, how does the new Sci-Fi stack up to this design? Astoundingly well. The bright green is very nearly an exact match, and I have to give a lot of credit to Hasbro for being willing to use it. It might be fractionally more subdued, but not by much. This could be contrasted with the new Cobra Techno-Viper, who while a very cool figure and structurally very similar to his original version, has a much more subdued uniform. It's still purple, but it's a lot more subdued. Sci-Fi isn't nearly as much.
The chest harness, no great surprise, is a separate piece and has been put to use to conceal the often awkward-looking mid-torso articulation point, which I'm wondering if Hasbro is starting to see as a possible mistake with this figure design, given the lengths to which they go these days to hide it.
The black stripes on the original Sci-Fi are now full shoulder pieces, attached to the chest harness, and are black with silver stripes. His elbow pads are much more pronounced and have been painted black, and the devices on his wrists are also larger and more extensively detailed and painted, with silver capsules on them this time around. His belt is still black with a silver buckle, but there's a few more gadgets hanging off it this time around.
The most unusual feature to me was the fact that there are these silver cables stretching from the upper leg pouches, which are still present and accounted for with their mysterious contents, to the tops of the boots, which have been superbly carried over from the original figure. Where did these cables come from?
I checked the original figure. Sculpted into the sides of the upper legs are tiny little cables, unpainted and as such bright green, that do seem to go from the pouches to at least the knees. Making these cables entirely separate pieces and then linking them across the articulation joint from upper leg to lower leg is an interesting bit of detail. In my opinion, it's almost too much. Honestly, these cables look like something that could snag on debris on the battlefield, and cause Sci-Fi to trip. Not a beneficial situation.
The silver and gray on the new Sci-Fi is distinctly darker than the original, who had a very bright silver color to his trim. This is especially evidence on the boots, more than anywhere else. However, on the whole, I would have to say that the main directive behind this Sci-Fi figure was to respect the original design in its entirety, and then crank it up a few notches for the new figure. For the most part, this has worked superbly well.
About the only detail point on the original figure that is missing from the new one, is that the original Sci-Fi had black ribbed padding on the insides of his upper legs. It is not present this time around. However, I consider that to be a fairly minor point. It was almost a rather curious feature even on the original.
Hasbro should certainly be commended for its willingness to create this many new parts. They also did this with the Techno-Viper. There were some critics when the first 25th Anniversary figures came along, that claimed that Hasbro was reusing way too many parts across different figures, that perhaps they should not have, and that the objective seemed to be getting close enough to a likeness of the original character without being overly concerned about how truly distinctive or precise the end result was. And these criticisms may have a certain amount of validity.
This is categorically not the case with Sci-Fi. He is an extremely distinctive character that is simply not going to be able to use much in the way of anyone else's parts. The boots, the leg pouches, the gloves, the wristbands. Even setting aside the fact that the helmet is removable and so is the chest harness, you're just not going to be able to use much of anyone else's parts on Sci-Fi and get an effective result that looks like the original figure. This new Sci-Fi is certainly an effective result that looks entirely like a modern incarnation of the original figure.
Any complaints? Just two, and they both pertain to the chest harness. Somebody got the idea to sculpt little dings and dents of battle damage into it. I abhor and detest this practice virtually wherever it shows up, and it certainly wasn't necessary here. There was just no good reason to do this.
Secondly, a relatively minor point, the vertical stripes on the chest harness have not been painted bright green. Instead, they've been painted a slightly darker gray-silver, more or less matching the boots. From a composition standpoint, this makes some sense, although I suspect the real reason was that somebody figured that that much bright green on this figure might just be too much. Now, Sci-Fi doesn't look bad as he is, and honestly, the padding looks a little more protective all in gray. But the green stripes of the original were cool as well. This, at least, is something that the individual collector can modify if they so desire, and if they have sufficient talent for it.
Apart from this, Sci-Fi is a truly excellent figure, well-designed, highly respectful to the original, neatly painted, and certainly well-detailed.
One thing that the 30th Anniversary G.I. Joe line has been determined to do is to provide its figures with plenty of accessories. Although Sci-Fi is not as extensively equipped as some figures I've encountered, he does come with some very impressive items, including one very distinctive accessory, which I'll discuss in a couple of paragraphs.
Sci-Fi comes with a backpack that is a modernization of his original. It's clearly intended to be some sort of power pack for his laser rifle, and as such it's as futuristic in appearance as Sci-Fi's uniform. It's gray-silver in color, very highly detailed, and has even been given a bit of painted detailed, a few little red "lights" and some gold trim.
There is a length of hollow plastic hose, which can be secured to the backpack, and then attached to Sci-Fi's main weapon, his laser rifle. This has also been molded in gray-silver, and manages to look both futuristic and plausible at the same time. There is a touch of gold trim near the front of the barrel.
Now we come to the unusual accessory -- Sci-Fi comes with a full second helmet! This is certainly not something the original included. The design is, for all intents and purposes, identical to the more traditional helmet that Sci-Fi is wearing, with one notable difference. The thick black visor that normally only shades and protects Sci-Fi's eyes extends all the way down, to shield his entire face!
Obviously, the implication is that this is something that Sci-Fi's helmet can automatically do, and this second helmet simply represents that particular capability. One shouldn't think that Sci-Fi has to change helmets for greater protection if he's cranking his laser rifle to the max or whatever. At the same time, let's be reasonable about toy technology. It wouldn't really be possible to make a little plastic helmet this small with a working "descending visor" that would look this good. Overall, the second helmet is a cool feature.
Sci-Fi also comes with a black display base, embossed with the G.I. Joe logo, and his name imprinted on the front.
Let's consider the file card. But before we do that, let's consider the character illustration. I will say this about the illustrations used for the package artwork for the current batch of 30th Anniversary figures -- and I don't mean the ones that use the animation artwork and are based on the Renegades series. I'm talking about the non-animated figures. It's some of the finest individual character art I've ever seen -- for G.I. Joe or virtually any other toy line. The precision, the realism, and the attention to detail is absolutely outstanding. I'm sincerely pleased that full images of these, not just head and torso shots, are being presented on the back of the package cards. This is artwork that deserves to be on display as much as possible. And Sci-Fi's painting is certainly no exception.
His file card -- and I do like this design, even if the cards aren't quite as informative as they used to be -- reads as follows:
Seymour "Sci-Fi" Fine
Name: Seymour P. Fine
Primary Weapon: L-LAT Laser Assault Targeting Weapon.
Sci-Fi is a laser trooper who is a master of precision and patience. A laser weapon requires someone who can hold his position for an extended time. Sci-Fi is perfect for the job because he's a slow-moving, easy-going guy, and an experienced marksman. He can keep perfectly still as the laser burns through enemy weapon systems in a continuous-burst beam.
So, what's my final word here? As I said early in this review, I'm sincerely pleased that Hasbro is making room in their 30th Anniversary collection for some of the more unusual and colorful G.I. Joes. I don't expect the Eco-Warriors to be turning up or anything (nor am I especially sure I'd want them to), but I've always been a fan of Sci-Fi, and I'm truly delighted that he's been brought into the modern line, something I certainly would not have expected, to hopefully attract a whole new cadre of modern fans, as well as give some of us long-time fans a reason to cheer the new line, even as we maintain the original.
The G.I. JOE figure of SEYMOUR "SCI-FI" FINE definitely has my highest recommendation!