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By Thomas Wheeler

When the G.I. Joe action figure line commenced its 25th Anniversary, with a distinct overhaul of the construction design of the figures, producing new versions of classic characters from the original Real American Hero line, there were certain characters from the original line that I honestly never really expected to see.

For some time prior to the introduction of what is commonly known as the 25th-style figures, during both the so-called "newsculpt" era of 2002-2006, and during the reiterations of the original-style figures after the end of the original line's run in 1994, when the line returned in 1997-1998, and again in 2000-2002, there seemed to be a distinct scaling back and general darkening of the overall color palette for uniforms.

Although the 25th Anniversary line strove to produce good likenesses of well-known characters from the original line, it also generally chose characters from earlier in the original line's run than later. Granted, most of these characters were among the best known personalities -- Duke, Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, Destro, Cobra Commander, and so forth. But at the same time, these earlier characters also had, shall we say, less intense color palettes.

And certainly the line based on the first live-action movie had arguably the darkest and most limited color palette of all, reflecting the relative realism and dark colors used in the film.

The original G.I. Joe line, from 1982-1994, as the years progressed, became increasingly colorful. This was a source of some controversy among fans and collectors. Some believed that the G.I. Joe figures should adhere to a more realistically military color scheme, as they had in their original 12" incarnation, and indeed as most of the 3-3/4" figures had in the early days.

For myself, I was never much bothered by the brighter colors, although I'll admit there were a few times where perhaps the figures got a little carried away. The Eco-Warriors would probably be the strongest examples here, along with the Mega-Marines. But to be fair, I felt that by this time, the G.I. Joe concept had become less about a specifically military adventure, and more a character-driven concept with military overtones. The G.I. Joe team was at this point a very large group of highly-trained military professionals, but they were also far more individualistic than most military units tended to be. And indeed, some characters needed special uniforms in the performance of their specialized duties.

On the other side of the coin was Cobra, a fictional pseudo-military organization with the intention of conquering and ruling the world. Global in nature and with no allegiance to any real-world nation or power, they could pretty much dress their soldiers however they saw fit. Admittedly a fair number of them didn't seem especially well-suited for what most people thought a real-world battlefield would be like, but that was Cobra's decision to make.

So really, most of the brighter color schemes of the mid to later years of the original G.I. Joe line never bothered me, and in fact there were quite a number of characters during those years that I still regard as personal favorites.

I still have my original collection, of course, and it will always be first and foremost in my G.I. Joe world. At the same time, I acknowledge that we have a different figure format these days, and it is what is going to be the basis for G.I. Joe for the foreseeable future, and there have been both very capable renditions of previously established characters and troopers in this new format, as well as the introduction of interesting new characters and troopers.

It is the former category that the figure I'll be reviewing fits into. As I said, there are some characters that, largely due to their color schemes or rather fancy specialties, I never really expected to see in the current figure format. So you can imagine my surprise when no less than FOUR of those characters turned up in fairly quick succession in the 30th Anniversary G.I. Joe line.

Those four include -- the Cobra Techno-Viper, a Battlefield Technician first introduced in 1987 and wearing a uniform that was predominantly purple; Lifeline, a Rescue Trooper and Medic introduced in 1986 whose uniform was mostly red with white trim; Sci-Fi, a laser trooper introduced in 1986 whose uniform was mostly a very bright green with silver trim, with a design that would readily fit into any number of futuristic combat movies or video games; and -- AIRTIGHT -- A Hostile Environment specialist introduced in 1985, whose uniform was a bright yellow orange with olive green trim.

Technically speaking, this Airtight figure isn't really part of the 30th Anniversary collection. He's part of a sidebar, a group of figures based on the most recent animated incarnation of G.I. Joe, called "G.I. Joe Renegades", which has aired on the Hasbro-based "HUB Network".

The Renegades figures have been interesting. Some of them have a more animated look than others. Airtight doesn't look especially animated. He stands alongside Sci-Fi, Lifeline, and the Techno-Viper and works perfectly well. Really, the only major differences between Airtight and the other characters I just mentioned have to do with the package, and Airtight's file card.

Most of the current G.I. Joe figures -- at least those not affiliated with the Renegades group -- have truly magnificent package illustrations. These intricate, highly-detailed, and incredibly realistic paintings -- my very strong admiration to the artist or artists -- really started with portrait shots on the relatively small file cards for the line based on the first movie. Fortunately, this style of artwork has carried over ever since, and these days, you not only get a head-and-torso shot on the front of the card, but the reverse side of the card shows the full figure painting of the character, as well as a head shot on the file card.

Obviously, the Renegades figures use images from the animation. Now, I don't want to malign the animation. A cartoon is a cartoon, and it's not even possible for it to be as intricate or as realistic as the paintings for the non-Renegades figures. Still, part of me thinks it would've been nice for Airtight to get one of these impressive painted illustrations.

The other major difference is the file card. Obviously, it's going to take its cues from the animated series. It reads as follows:

Hostile Environment Specialist

Name: Kurt Schnurr
Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut

Dr. Kurt Schnurr is a scientist working for Cobra Industries. Schnurr became a bio-chemist to fight diseases in developing countries, and he believed Cobra personnel when they assured him they would support his goal. But he discovers that Cobra has darker plans for his research, and that even his lab partner, Dr. Monev, is not who he pretends to be.

Okay, wow. That's not the Airtight that I know. Let me say first of all that the packaging for Airtight very clearly identifies him as a G.I. Joe, and not a member of Cobra. About the only common factors here between the original Airtight and this incarnation of the character, besides a strong physical resemblance, obviously, is his real name, "Kurt Schnurr".

I find it interestng that "Dr. Monev" is mentioned in the file card. Reverse the name and you get "Dr. Venom", who was a character created in the early days of the comic book to give Cobra a scientific specialist. He was killed off fairly early in the run of the comic book, but the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club issued a figure of him as part of a 4" line based on the 12" Adventure Team. It made sense -- given that Dr. Venom was part of the early days of Cobra -- and didn't exactly appear especially youthful even then -- he could have well been carrying out some pre-Cobra schemes when the Adventure Team was operational. Interestingly, the Club didn't call the figure "Dr. Venom". They called him by his full name "Dr. Archibald Monev".

Now, back to Airtight. At this point I'd like to set aside the Renegades history, and discuss the history of Airtight as I know it, because really, this figure looks much more suited to the 30th Anniversary collection than to the Renegades. This is not to diminish his presence in the Renegades series. But Airtight didn't start there, and I want to respect the character by going further back to his original appearance, without which I doubt we'd have this modern version.

Airtight was first introduced in 1985, and was part of a year of figures that, while not particularly garishly-colored -- Airtight was probably one of the brightest-uniformed in the bunch -- nevertheless certainly gave indications that the G.I. Joe team was moving away from a more traditional military appearance. While there were some characters that fit well into a fairly military motif, such as Flint, Shipwreck, Lady Jaye, Footloose, and Dusty, there were also those that did not, such as Bazooka, with his red baseball shirt with the blue "14" on it; Quick Kick, shirtless with a red sash and bare feet; Barbecue, a fairly high-tech-looking Firefighter; and Airtight.

Nevertheless, Airtight's specialty certainly allowed for his specialized uniform. As a Hostile Environment Trooper, it was Airtight's job to walk into places that were polluted, toxic, or even radioactive. Not only is he going to need some seriously protective gear for that, but it would probably be helpful if he were fairly noticeable, just in case someone has to go in and get him out, or at the very least, know where he is until he can launder his uniform and get the assorted contaminants off of it...

Airtight's original file card pretty well describes him as being a geek from the very start. According to the data, as a kid, he had the largest collection of plastic dinosaurs on the block, and could hold his breath longer than anyone else. He was a weird kid who grew up into an even stranger adult. The card continues, "It takes a mighty weird person to walk into a cloud of toxic gas strong enough to fell a mutant weight-lifted cockroach wearing a protective suit built under contract for the government by the lowest bidder."

The card continues to describe Airtight as an unreformed practical joker, abundantly willing to use whoopie cushions, sneezing powder, plastic barf, whatever comes to mind. One might hope that he at least has the common sense not to pull any of this on Snake-Eyes. One might think that the other members of the Joe Team would hate his guts, but they put up with this nonsense, because when the bad guys start pulling the kinds of stunts that apply to Airtight's specialty, he's the one that suits up and wades into it to deal with it.

Airtight had few appearances in either the original comic book or animated series, but they were notable ones. In the comic book, Airtight appeared alongside a group of new recruits that also included Bazooka, Heavy Metal, and Crankcase. Originally on a training run with Lady Jaye, they were captured by Cobra, who was also evaluating a new potential member in Dr. Mindbender, as well as testing their new Battle Android Troopers.

Airtight, readily referred to as a P.N.G. (Pencil-Necked Geek) by the other new recruits, and who included among his activities capturing a couple of scorpions for his "collection" and enjoying peanut butter and tomato sandwiches, helped to save the day against Dr. Mindbender's fast-growing mutant plant spores, and then took care of Destro and Dr. Mindbender by tossing his scorpion-filled first aid kit into their vehicle. Really, the story was Airtight's spotlight as much as anybody's.

In the animated series, Airtight's main episode came along when Cobra accidentally created a monstrous blob of protoplasm that devoured everything in its path, and was making its way to a major metropolis. Airtight, presented as a capable scientific sort in the episode, was willing to fly a manned missile into the heart of the eerie creation in order to help disable it. He even faced off against a Cobra Crimson Guard who tried to hijack his vehicle. After Airtight explained that he'd just planted a bomb in the nucleus of the strange creature, the Crimson Guardsman quickly realized he'd better cooperate with Airtight if he wanted to get out in one piece.

Figurewise, Airtight never appeared in the original line again. There was a South American version, whose South American name I don't quite recall offhand, that was part of the South American incarnation of Tiger Force. This Airtight greatly resembled the first one, since for the purposes of Tiger Force there was little reason to change the bright yellow-orange color of his uniform, but the green details were altered to brown, and as one would expect, black tiger stripes were added to the yellow-orange areas of the uniform.

Airtight was supposed to be part of the newsculpt line, but came along so late in this particular aspect of the line, that he was ultimately part of the group that was offered exclusively through the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club.

It seems like Airtight has had a little trouble catching a break over the years. Now, he's finally part of the modern line, but took just a bit of a side door in, as part of the Renegades offerings.

So, how's the figure? Really outstanding, I have to say. The figure is a truly superb modern figure version of the original character, and he readily stands alongside some of his brightly-colored peers, such as Sci-Fi and Lifeline.

Outfitted very much as before, Airtight is wearing a bright yellow-orange uniform, clearly designed as a fairly thick protective uniform. He has olive green gloves, belt, boots, and an olive green harness with a black chest piece, with some assorted machinery on it, again, very much like the original figure.

The olive green harness is a separate piece, which serves to conceal the mid-torso articulation point. This is arguably the most inconvenient aspect of the modern figure design. There are a rather large number of figures on which it just doesn't look very good. Hasbro has endeavored to conceal this as much as possible, while still allowing for its movement, through the use of harnesses, vests, and other means of concealment, some more successful than others.

Airtight's harness works superbly well, since it reflects the look of the original figure, and covers the articulation point without negating its movement. The black machinery on the chestplate is very intricately designed, looks good, and even has some painted detail, including a gray dial and knob, and two white linear gauges with little red marking needles.

Airtight's helmet is removable. This is a first. Not even the newsculpt version had a removable helmet. Underneath the helmet, Airtight's face is fully visible, but the headsculpt has a protective hood over the rest of the head. Interestingly, Airtight has appeared without his helmet in both the animated series and in the comic book. In the comic book, Airtight was shown to have rather unruly, slightly curly brown hair. In the animated series, his hair was also brown, but it was combed back away from his forehead and seemed to be just a little on the receding side. One would hope this was not a result of radiation exposure.

On the figure, no hair shows, but his eyebrows are black, so it's probably not unreasonable to assume that if he had been given hair, it would've been the proper color as previously established. The face is really an excellent sculpt, with an appropriately determined expression

The helmet is essentially identical to the original figure's, although it does have the added feature of a clear visor across the eyes -- something which I'm sure Airtight appreciates. But it's otherwise identical, olive green with a black mask across the lower face, and two black stripes over the top of the head near the sides.

The figure, of course, has plenty of articulation, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. The detail level on the uniform is superb, including detailed ridges on the gloves, and fancy treads on the bottoms of the boots.

One of the things that the 30th Anniversary G.I. Joe line has been doing is equipping its figures with plenty of accessories. And regardless of being part of the Renegades group, Airtight is no exception to this. He comes with a backpack that snaps onto his back, and is reflective of the original equipment. He also has a length of hollow hose which connects to a rifle-like device that is in fact a "Hazardous Environment Containment Rifle". He also has a more standard rifle, a "containment device" that looks more than a little like the sort of "containment devices" used by the Ghostbusters to trap ghosts (Who ya gonna call? G.I. Joes!), and a large and very nicely detailed oxygen tank with a very authentic-looking warning and instruction label imprinted on it. He also has a display stand.

So, what's my final word? I'm sincerely impressed, and very pleased, with this figure. Although technically emanating from the Renegades animated line, in my opinion, Airtight joins Sci-Fi, Lifeline, and the Techno-Viper, as four of the more colorfully-uniformed characters that I never really expected to see in the modern G.I. Joe line, but whom I am truly pleased to see. Airtight is a very effective modern rendering of the original character, and I sincerely believe that any longtime G.I. Joe collector who is enjoying the modern line will be delighted to add Airtight -- and the others -- to their collection.

The G.I. JOE RENEGADES figure of AIRTIGHT definitely has my highest recommendation!