REVIEW: G.I. JOE SHARC TOOTH VEHICLE with DEEP SIX
The G.I. Joe SHARC, now known as the Sharc Tooth, was first introduced in 1984, and has certainly had one of the more peculiar histories in the world of G.I. Joe, starting with that designation as a "Flying Submarine". This, despite the fact that its driver has the name of Deep Six, and the original figure was clearly designed to be less of an action figure and more of a diving toy. So, how in the world did the SHARC gain airborne properties?
Well, for one thing, unlike the majority of G.I. Joe vehicles at the time, the SHARC didn't have the most conventional design in the world. It didn't really look that much like a traditional submarine. And it did have design aspects that sort of looked like wings, if rather short ones. Nevertheless, there was no intention on the part of the designers for the SHARC to be anything more than a high-tech-looking submarine for the third year of G.I. Joe product.
That is, until the good people at Hasbro did some kid testing with the product, and the kids used the thing as an aircraft. Now, I honestly have no idea if there was a wading pool or other body of water in the room for the kids to make use of, but one still has to figure that the Hasbro personnel saw what was happening and realized -- um -- they had a situation. As such, the SHARC became a Flying Submarine, and was portrayed as such in most of its media appearances, especially the animated series.
The SHARC would go through a wide range of name changes and recolorations over the successive years following its initial release. It appeared in chrome silver in Sky Patrol as the Sky Sharc, one of the few times one assumes that its flying properties were emphasized. It turned up in the Toys "R" Us exclusive Night Force line as the Night Shade about the same time. It defected to Cobra in the 2000-2002 years, and became known as the Wave Crusher. And it returned to G.I. Joe as part of a Target exclusive vehicle assortment in 2008 as the Night Specter.
Finally, it was added to the 25th Anniversary line in its original colors, and a fairly close approximation of its original name (doubtless as close as legalities would allow), now known as the SHARC TOOTH.
The misspelling of "SHARC" with a "C" is a result of the vehicle's original abbreviation, which stands for Submersible High-speed Attack and Reconnaissance Craft. One assumes that the abbreviation isn't necessarily valid this time around. Clearly the name is one of those instances where the abbreviation came before the explanation (although one assumes that a modification had to be made for the "C"). I think that it's interesting to note, however, that the explanation makes absolutely no reference to flight. The first word is "submersible" -- that's it. The rest of the explanation is something that can just as easily take place underwater as in the air given the right design.
The Sharc Tooth was one of the first early departures from fairly traditional vehicle designs for the G.I. Joe team, although admittedly even in 1984, Cobra had had some pretty wild stuff. Twenty-five years later, the Sharc Tooth almost looks a little tame compared to some of the stuff that came out on both sides, but it's still an impressive design, in the first place because it doesn't look too implausible, and in the second place because it manages to have a cool, high-tech design that holds up well even today.
The Sharc Tooth has a somewhat boxy, angular design, not especially resembling the conventional view of a submarine, and really, it's not too hard to see why kids might have mistaken it for an aircraft. It's about 8-1/2" in total length. It has a central body that is rather trapezoidal in shape, with a large, clear canopy in the front, that opens along the side. There are two tail fins in the back, rising up from the top and extending back a bit, with adjustable rudders.
To each side of the Sharc Tooth is doubtless what got this vehicle its designation as a Flying Submarine. Short, angled wings extend outwards, giving the Sharc Tooth a total width of 8-1/2", essentially identical to its length. On each of these wings is a large, angular jet-like engine. The Sharc Tooth is all angles. There isn't a curved surface anywhere to be found, really.
The Sharc Tooth is molded in an off-white, the same as the original vehicle -- and the first time since the original SHARC that the vehicle has used its original colors. Every other version released since the original has had some different color scheme. There is one difference, though. The original SHARC had a darker canopy. The Sharc Tooth has an entirely clear canopy. It's not darkened at all.
The vehicle has a number of cool features. Along with the opening canopy and the movable rudders, there are two detachable torpedoes on the underside of the vehicle. There are two guns that pop up on the wings, operated by a control underneath each wing. And there's a peg on the underside of the vehicle, whereby you can detach the torpedoes and have a member of the G.I. Joe team (the instructions recommend Lt. Torpedo) ride under there.
Of course, as with any G.I. Joe vehicle, the Sharc Tooth comes with a generous supply of labels. A few of these have been placed in advance. Honestly, I sort of wish they wouldn't do this, but I can understand why they want to spice up the look of the vehicle a bit in its package. Nevertheless, and I'll admit I'm very fussy about this sort of thing, I'd really rather do it myself, especially when the labels placed, in this instance, are those of the G.I. Joe logo and the vehicle's own distinctive emblem (no great surprise -- it's a blue shark with wings). I did have to remove and re-place a couple of them. However, credit where it's due, they weren't too severely misplaced. Consider the mass production factor, and it wasn't bad at all.
I'd have to check my original SHARC, but I'm convinced that the Sharc Tooth has quite a few more labels than its ancestor. That's not a complaint. I've always felt that the labels really did help most vehicles look more "official" in a way. And thanks no doubt to computers and improved printing technology, the labels are more detailed than ever. Where once there were only a few straight lines representing some sort of printed advisory, now the actual printing is there.
Certainly this is the case with many of the labels for the Sharc Tooth. While most of the major warnings and other advisories are perfectly legible, such as "No Step", "Cylinder Access", "Interlock", and so forth, some of the finer printing on some of the labels, such as the ones for "Tool Kit", "Intake", and "Hingepad" are -- I'm starting to really wish I hadn't sold my microscope a few years back. I mean, clearly, there are words there. But I get about as far as "Follow safety instructions" on the "Hingepad" label and my eyes start to cross. Honestly, I'm impressed with this level of attention to detail, truly. I just sort of wish I knew what it said...!
One somewhat amusing thing about the labels. Several of them read "SA-SHARC-355m". On the placement instructions, the word "TOOTH" is placed below "SHARC". However, that's not the case with the actual labels, and among those labels carried over from the original vehicle, this is certainly one of them. One gets the impression that the intention was to alter the label, and the instruction sheet was altered, but the labels weren't -- which is just as well because in at least one instance, if they had, it wouldn't have fit the designated area. At the same time, it leaves one wondering just how close to the release of this vehicle someone realized that they couldn't just call it the SHARC this time around.
The Sharc Tooth has a huge cockpit for a one-man vehicle, but there's a reason for it -- given the one man that came with it the first time around, and comes with it again. His name is DEEP SIX. When he was first released in 1984 with the original SHARC, he was something of an oddity. He barely qualified as an action figure, since his only moving parts were his arms. Deep Six was designed more for the specific purpose of being a diving figure, not an action figure.
The original Deep Six was outfitted with a huge, bulky, deep-sea diving suit. The body of the figure was hollow, and there were small metal weights in the legs, and two holes in the bottoms of the feet. The idea was that you attached a small air hose and pump to a hole in the back of the figure, and through this, you could cause Deep Six to rise and fall in the water. Personally, I never tested it myself, but I never heard any comments that it didn't work, so I'm assuming that it did.
Deep Six was the same height as any other G.I. Joe figure, although he was obviously bulkier. He could stand alongside any of them in a group, but that was also about all he could do. His arms were articulated at the shoulder, but that was the extent of his movement.
In 1989, Hasbro produced a new Deep Six figure, sold on a single card. Although still wearing a deep sea diving suit, the figure was entirely a new design, the suit was much more slimmed down, and the figure was also as fully articulated as any other G.I. Joe figure in the line had ever been. This Deep Six was certainly a welcome addition to anyone's collection.
For this 25th Anniversary series Sharc Tooth, Hasbro has gone back to the original design. I was originally going to gripe about this a bit, commenting that there's maybe a limit to how far nostalgia needs to go, and how while maybe they could use the same design as the original suit, it shouldn't be that hard to decently articulate it this time around, seeing as how I didn't think they were including the air pump gadget this time but -- surprise! They did! Tucked under the Sharc Tooth in the package and pretty well out of sight was an air hose and pump! Okay, under those circumstances, they did have to redo the original figure as closely as possible.
Arguably, the new Deep Six is a 25th-style version of the original Deep Six. Just as arguably, that description is open to some interpretation, seeing as how neither Deep Six all that closely matches the figure design format of the figure series that he's from. In other words, while the original Deep Six figure may be part of the original Real American Hero line, he's not built like them. Similarly, the 25th-style Deep Six may be part of that figure line, but he's not built like them.
It's probably easier to just compare the two Deep Six figures. They're extremely similar. Both are wearing a very bulky-looking, light grey high-tech deep diving suit. Their heads are encased in clear dome-like helmets which are not removable. The new Deep Six has brown hair and a narrower face than his original red-haired counterpart, but the narrower face seems to be in keeping with the 25th-style design. The new Deep Six is also slightly taller than his original counterpart, standing slightly over four inches in height, instead of precisely four inches (to the top of the respective domes), but this is also in keeping with the designs.
The diving suits are virtually identical in appearance. They have a raised yellow area running down the front, with sculpted ridges. Large grey hoses run over the right shoulder. Assorted gadgetry on the front and back of the torso is virtually identical in placement in basic appearance. The shoulders are dark grey and ribbed. There are yellow elbow joints, and thick grey gloves. The knee joints are dark grey with yellow squares on them, there there are yellow rides areas on the outside of the legs on both figures.
On the back of each Deep Six is the air hose connected, and a yellow trapezoid area near the base of the spine. The 25th-style Deep Six does have a few more "bells and whistles". There are fan-like details at the top of the backpack and the base of the boots, which one might assume allow for underwater propulsion. Additionally, there is what looks like a little light on the left shoulder of the new Deep Six. All of these are logical additions to the suit. It's sort of a shame the original doesn't have them.
The new Deep Six has a little more articulation than his predecessor. Whereas the original Deep Six could only move at the arms, the new Deep Six can move at the arms, elbows, and wrists.
I have not tested the new Deep Six as far as diving capability is concerned. Interestingly, he lacks the moving metal weights in his legs that the original Deep Six has. However, he does have holes in the bottoms of his feet, and if you hook up the air hose and pump, you can feel air shoot out through the holes in the feet. The new Deep Six also feels very slightly heavier than his original counterpart. Whether this negated the need for metal weights, I honestly don't know. I'm assuming that the figure works as indicated on the instructions, which is pretty much how the original worked.
I'd have to ultimately say that the Deep Six figure that comes with the Sharc Tooth is a very reasonable update of the original, certainly is a good visual match and will fit in with a 25th-style collection of figures as well as the original Deep Six fits in with the original Real American Hero collection.
There are two file cards on the Sharc Tooth box -- one for Deep Six, and one for the vehicle. The file card for Deep Six reads as follows:
DEEP SEA DIVER
Code Name: DEEP SIX
File Name: Willoughby, Malcolm R.
Primary Military Specialty: Master Diver
Secondary Military Specialty: Underwater Demolitions Instructor
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland
Deep Six is a loner and an individualist who rarely engages in casual conversation with his G.I. Joe teammates. If he's on a mission, he's totally focused on the task at hand. Don't look for him to join a pick-up game of basketball; he prefers crossword puzzles and other solitary activities. He may keep to himself, but his loyalty to the team is without question and he gives everything he's got to help the team achieve victory. As a Master Diver. He ranks at the top in terms of experience and knowledge in all areas of underwater diving and salvage. If a dangerous undersea mission needs to be done, Deep Six is always the first to step forward.
"Of course it's cold, wet, and dark down there on the sea bottom, but that's the way I like it."
Which is pretty much in keeping with how the character has always been presented. Then there's the file card for the vehicle itself. I was hugely impressed and pleased when Hasbro finally decided to start doing vehicle file cards, something I thought was long overdue. I was sad to see them fall by the wayside when the movie-based line was introduced, and if Hasbro should happen to decide to reintroduce them with the post-movie line, I for one would not complain in the least. Meantime, the file card for the Sharc Tooth reads as follows:
Designation: Flying Submarine
Weapons: Cannons, torpedoes
The Sharc Tooth vehicle does double duty as an aircraft and submarine. It's built for speed; the aero/hydrodynamic frame cuts smoothly through water and slices swiftly through air. Twin 30mm cannons are concealed in the wings for aerial assault, and torpedoes are mounted on the craft's belly for underwater bombardment. These multi-environment crafts allow the G.I. Joe team to strike Cobra with greater efficiency: no matter where Cobra forces run, they can't escape vehicles that can hunt them down underwater or in the air.
All that from some kids 25+ years ago who used their imaginations in a way Hasbro certainly didn't expect...
One last note about the packaging. I don't usually comment about this sort of thing, but you have to love the backdrop against which the Sharc Tooth has been packaged inside the box. It shows the deck of the USS FLAGG AIRCRAFT CARRIER, and a Dragonfly Copter and SkyStriker Jet are shown on the deck. Now there's some good memories!
So, what's my final word here? The Sharc Tooth may not be the most dynamic vehicle ever produced for G.I. Joe, but it's got a very cool look that holds up well today, even if you don't know its full and amazing history. This rendition of it is a superb likeness of the original, and the updated labels actually add a degree more of authenticity to it. The Deep Six figure is a good update of the original, and certainly very respectful of the original in its overall design and appearance, while also managing to fit in with the current figure design as well as the original did with its figure line. On the whole, I see nothing here that would disappoint any G.I. Joe fan.
The G.I.JOE SHARC TOOTH vehicle with DEEP SIX definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!