That's not to say a handful of product didn't still make its way out. The 12" versions of Dr. Mindbender and Bazooka turned up at Family Dollar stores. But most of what was out there tended to be 12" versions of the 3-3/4" characters, and most of that was limited.
So imagine my surprise when, in 2006, I came across a 12" G.I. Joe at Toys "R" Us that I'd never seen before, one who was not based on a 3-3/4" character, and moreover, had a 2005 copyright date on his package. I had no real idea where this figure had come from, but he was cool enough, and distinct enough, for me to give him a home.
I tend to think that one thing that may have hurt the 12" G.I. Joe line over the years was that, sooner or later, 12" military figures all tend to start to look a lot alike. There's only so much you can do with camouflage. And a company like Hasbro HAS to market its line primarily to children. And like it or not, 12" military figures just aren't that popular in that age group. Some companies can get away with 12" military figures a little bit better because they specialize in the product, and direct it to the adult collector. Hasbro, honestly, doesn't have that option.
Even though I was interested in the 12" military Joes when they initially returned in the Classic Collection in the mid 90's, even I found my interest waning when there just wasn't enough variety to make it worth the effort, money, or shelf display space.
Fortunately, the Joe that I found for this review is not only quite distinctive in his appearance, but in his own way, solves a long- standing problem for the 12" military G.I. Joes that has gone unresolved for almost four decades.
The figure is a NAVY UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TRAINING specialist, part of the "NAVY SEALS COLLECTION", based on the special logo on the package. As one might expect for an underwater specialist, the figure needs to be outfitted with a diving suit. And therein lies the longstanding problem.
When Hasbro first created an "Action Sailor" back in the 1960's, they gave the figure an actual, rubbery diving suit to wear. This looked cool, but it created two major problems, one immediate, one that would not present itself for quite a few years. The immediate problem was that it was a colossal pain to try to dress the G.I. Joe in this outfit. Trying to wrestle the figure into the suit, or peel it off of him, was not exactly the most enjoyable part of playtime.
The second problem was that, over the decades, those who sought to preserve their Action Sailors in their diving suits discovered that the diving suits tended to dry out and crack, or worse, melt onto the figures, adhering to them with the strength of rubber cement, and in some places having the approximate consistency of Pancake Syrup. Even if the suit could be removed, generally not intact, it often left permanent black marks on the G.I. Joe figure itself, pretty well lowering any value for those concerned with such things.
Finally, someone came up with a solution, and its evidenced with this newest, and possibly last for a long time, 12" G.I. Joe figure. They molded most of the body in a semi-glossy black plastic, making it look like he's already wearing most of his diving suit. Granted, it won't come off, but then, neither will some of the originals that were supposed to be able to. In fact, the only parts of this figure's body molded in flesh tone are the head, hands, and feet.
I suspect this is an outgrowth of the fact that a fair number of lower- priced 12" G.I. Joes in recent years, of which this is one, had their shirts molded to their bodies. Somebody obviously figured out that the same could be done for a diving suit, and I can't help but wonder if some other Hasbro exec might've said, "Where the heck were you 40 years ago!?"
Whatever the case, the end result is a pretty cool figure. There are some separate rubbery parts to the figure. He's wearing a Wetsuit Hood, which is removable. Whether it will remain removable, I suppose we'll just have to wait to find out. Check back with me on this one in 2046. There's also a rubbery waistpiece, which was assembled as part of the figure, but it makes the figure look as though his wet suit is a two- piece apparatus. He also has removable swim fins.
This G.I. Joe comes with a knife, with a sheath that straps to his leg, a set of underwater goggles, a rebreather unit, very modern-looking, a rubbery vest, a set of wire cutters (would that they had been real wire cutters so I could've gotten through the plastic coated wire twist-ties holding the figure in place), and an "exploding" mine on a string tether.
The figure's hands have articulated finger groups, and the artciulation is nice and tight. He doesn't have any trouble holding onto any of his equipment. The description for this G.I. Joe, written out on the back of the package, reads as follows:
"One of the missions performed by the United States Navy SEALs is Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). SEAL teams enter a region and disarm mines and other threatening devices, to make the area safe for deployed forces and non-military personnel. Training for EOD missions is rigorous and reinforces the skills needed to safely and effectively complete the mission. Using bubble-eliminating rebreather devices, SEALs dive underwater undetected to work with disarmed mines that would, in an actual situation, threaten ships. SEALs learn how to attach satchel charges to the mines to destroy them. During training, if the team fails to disarm a device correctly, a small, harmless charge is activated, indicating that the device would have exploded in a real-life situation. The brave actions of EOD teams help ensure the safety of fellow SEALs and other military forces on the water."
The photo on the back of the package look so authentic that I was actually surprised when I noticed figure articulation points. It's a photo of the actual figure -- not a painting! Nicely done.
Listed on the side of the package are three other figures -- Patrol Mission Marine, Marine Amphibious Assault Training, and M202 Grenadier. Of these, the only one I can recall seeing is the Amphibious Assault Training. If the other two even came out, I don't remember seeing them. That's not to say they didn't.
The 12" G.I. Joe may have departed from the toy stores once again, but this NAVY UDT figure is proof that they still can be found out there on occasion. And I happen to think that this one is really pretty cool. If nothing else, he does a good job of solving the longtime dilemma of the rubbery diving suits that ruined so many of his predecessors.
The G.I. JOE NAVY UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TRAINING figure is one cool
Joe. If you can find him, I certainly recommend him!