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REVIEW: OFFICIAL G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB BIG LOB
By Thomas Wheeler

Patience can be a virtue, even in the toy collecting world. This has proven to be true at rather astounding length when it comes to G.I. Joe. It took 22 years -- from their original introduction in 1982, all the way to 2004 -- before there were actual figures of the original Oktober Guard, as they had appeared in the comic books. The same is also true for popular Eskimo mercenary, Kwinn. However, ultimately, traditional-style figures were produced for all of them.

But there's a character in the concept who has beat Kwinn and the Guard by a full year, from time of introduction to finally being brought into the figure line. His name is BIG LOB, and he's the official Membership Figure for 2010 for the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club.

He hasn't had a lot of media exposure. In the comics, he turned up all of once -- in that massive crowd scene on that one cover of the Devil's Due comic book that had anybody who'd ever called themselves a G.I. Joe standing on the steps of the Capitol. And yet somehow, Big Lob has, through his very absence, managed to achieve a sort of pop-culture popularity within the world of G.I. Joe -- possibly because his one main appearance was so notable, and the character was so distinctive, that it was hard to understand why Hasbro DIDN'T make a figure of him. And yet, for whatever reason, they didn't.

Big Lob turned up in the animated G.I. Joe movie, which was released in 1987. Originally intended for a theatrical release, it instead went directly to video. The movie told the story of the Joe Team's encounter with the eerie forces of Cobra-La, a strange ancient civilization that, it turned out, had been pulling Cobra's strings for years, and was finally prepared to enact their ultimate plan to destroy humanity and conquer the world. The animation was top-notch, the opening sequence an action-filled miasma of astounding energy, and although the storyline was somewhat on the peculiar side, the overall production quality was excellent.

One of the side-stories involved Beach Head training a group of new recruits to the G.I. Joe team. Dubbed the "Rawhides" in the movie, most of these characters were turned out as figures as part of the 1987 line. The group consisted of Tunnel Rat, Law & Order, Jinx, Chuckles, Lt. Falcon, and -- Big Lob. Some of the characters had more prominent roles in the movie than others, especially Falcon and Jinx. But none of the Rawhides were particularly neglected, all of them had their moments in the spotlight, not only as part of a training session staged by Beach Head, but during the climactic battle in Cobra-La, and certainly they all presented themselves as interesting characters with dynamic appearances.

Big Lob was presented as a die-hard sports enthusiast, and looked the part, with a sleeveless sports shirt with a large "14" on it. He also talked the part, as well, lacing his speech with sports euphemisms every chance he got. When Beach Head put him through an obstacle course, Big Lob never shut up once, even underwater, basically doing his own commentary while making his way through the course with relative ease, taking out a weapon at the end with a well-placed grenade. Later in the movie, he was part of a team that staged a final assault on Cobra-La. While he might have come across as somewhat comedic early on, it was clear that he was abundantly skilled in battle.

Sports carryovers were not unheard of in G.I. Joe. Bazooka had already proven that, and in years after Big Lob's 1987 appearance, other characters, including Hardball, Tracker, The Fridge, and Capt. Grid-Iron, would all carry this over.

So there didn't seem to be any real reason why Big Lob didn't become a figure. Certainly all of the other Rawhides were part of the 1987 figure line. Falcon, Tunnel Rat, Jinx, Law & Order, Chuckles -- but no Big Lob. And there never seemed to be an explanation for it.

Granted, the movie received rather mixed reactions from the fan base. The storyline was deemed by a fair portion as simply too bizarre. The Cobra-La Team set of figures was almost spectacularly unpopular. Keep in mind, this was years before some other products within G.I. Joe that were considered somewhat odd, such as the Mega-Marines, Mega-Monsters, or Eco-Warriors. Nor was Big Lob the only fairly major player in the movie to not be rendered into plastic. Pythona got the short end of the stick in that regard, as well.

Was there ever a Big Lob figure in the works prior to this one? Honestly, I don't know. Hasbro once confirmed that Pythona was planned for 1988, along with some other Cobra-La related materials, but after the disastrous reaction to the Cobra-La Team, these plans were scrapped. However, Big Lob was not Cobra-La. He was a G.I. Joe. He could have arguably been fit into the team at almost any time. But he never was -- until now.

The Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club has made a point of releasing one distinctive 3-3/4" figure per year as a special bonus to all registered Club members. And they have turned out some amazing products over the years. A previously completely unreleased Cobra Commander. An interesting Jungle-Viper, creating a whole new division. An Undertow in the colors of the Iron Grenadiers Convention Set from a few years ago. But as cool as all of those are (especially the Undertow, in my opinion), I don't think any of them received quite the -- hoopla -- as Big Lob.

Here was someone who was just as, if not a little more, overdue for the figure treatment as the original Oktober Guard. The Club even produced a promotional video for Big Lob, which they placed on the YouTube site.

So -- how's the figure? Absolutely incredible. If it were possible to package this figure on a standard card, properly illustrated, and transport it back in time to 1987, you could squeeze him right into the lineup.

The figure is even more incredible given that the figure is comprised entirely of previously existing parts, something that the Club really rather has to do as much as possible. And that's getting to be a pretty shallow well these days. Far too much of the original-style line's molds simply aren't available anymore, for one reason or another. That's unfortunate in and of itself. When you're trying to carry on the line as much as feasibly possible, it gets extremely frustrating.

It is to the great credit of all those within the Club involved with the creation of this figure that Big Lob looks as cool as he does. The head belongs to the original Mercer figure. The upper torso is from Salvo. The legs belong to Ambush. The arms are from the 1992 Gung-Ho figure. But -- you'd never know it, all put together like this, because, really, all you see if Big Lob.

I tend to be of the opinion that the head is one of the most crucial parts of an action figure. As a representation of a person, even a fanciful one, it is here that attention is going to be drawn, to the head and to the face. And even though Big Lob uses a previously-used head -- hardly a first for the G.I. Joe line -- you don't look at this head and think "recolored Mercer". There's a couple of reasons for this. Most obviously, Big Lob is African-American. Mercer is white. But additionally, the painted details on the face are drastically different. The original Mercer had brown eyebrows, hair, and the brown outlines of eyes, typical for G.I. Joe figures of the time period. In contrast, Big Lob has black hair, black eyebrows, fully painted whites of the eyes, with black pupils and black outline over them.

The torso has been molded in red, to match Big Lob's red shirt. It's a fairly straightforward shirt design that has seen use on several figures over the years, first of all on Salvo, also on Big Brawler, as well as one of the versions of Balrog from the Street Fighter line. It's a good basic shirt, and it certainly fits Big Lob. The paint work is excellent, with a white collar, borders around the shoulders, and a very distinct yellow "14", outlined in black and then white, an entirely new graphic, imprinted on the front.

Big Lob's arms are sleeveless, appropriate for the character's appearance, and he has a grenade attached to an armband on his upper right arm. Fitting, given Big Lob's displayed prowess with grenades in the movie. His legs are from Ambush, again recolored to match Big Lob as he appeared in the movie, with olive green trousers, light brown belt, boots, and a leg strap. The buckle on the belt has been painted silver. Nice bit of additional detail, and the Club is known for throwing in as much detail as possible and appropriate.

Of course, being made in the fashion of the original, traditional-style figures, Big Lob is a perfect fit for his peers who were actually released in 1987. Time to round up Tunnel Rat and the others and let them know that the gang is finally ALL here.

Big Lob's accessories include a transparent display base -- although he stands perfectly well on his own, a wide belt that fits over his chest that contains a grenade and some equipment pouches, a pistol, and a large grenadier weapon designed to shoot grenades rather than bullets.

And, we finally have a full background for Big Lob. The figure comes with an excellent file card, done as much in the traditional style as the figure himself. Big Lob is listed as a G.I. JOE RESERVIST, and his file card reads as follows:

File Name: Bradley J. Sanders
Primary Military Specialty: Infantry/Grenadier
Secondary Military Specialty: Special Services
Birthplace: Chicago, IL

Big Lob has been a top athlete since elementary school and all through his high school days. He proved to have an uncanny ability to excel in any and all sports. Although he received offers from teams in several different sports leagues after graduation, he chose to enlist in the Army Reserves to serve his country but also remain close to his hometown and family. Rumors of his outstanding sports prowess and reports of his precise distance grenade throws quickly caught the attention of the G.I. Joe team. He joined under their "Rawhides" program, which allowed him the flexibility to report only for missions requiring his specialized expertise. He is well-liked by his teammates except for his annoying habit of talking about himself in the third person and constantly using sports metaphors even in non-sports related conversations.

The concept of throwing grenades goes back to the "Greek Fire" used by the Byzantines, and early gunpowder bombs developed by the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty. Thirteen centuries later, more advanced and specialized versions are still an integral part of a modern soldier's ordnance. Big Lob is exceptionally skilled at manually throwing hand grenades at specified targets and using his multi-shot grenade launcher for longer distances. He carries a full arsenal of high explosive, flechette, incendiary, chemical compound and even smoke grenades to accomplish any mission objective.

"When Big Lob makes his move, he always shoots to score the big win!"

And that's an excellent file card, with, I might add, an excellent classic-style illustration on the card! It is certainly well in keeping with the character's personality as seen in the movie, and also offers a good explanation of why he hasn't turned up all that much beyond that. However, it is certainly worth mentioning that in conjunction with the release of this figure, the monthly G.I. Joe Club Magazine has been presenting an all-new comic adventure featuring Big Lob!

So, what's my final word here? I feel a lot like I did when I first held the figures of Kwinn, Horror-Show, Daina, and some others in my hand. I could hardly believe that after ALL THOSE YEARS, there were finally figures of these popular characters and I had them. I feel that way about Big Lob. Twenty-three years is a long time to wait, but it's worth it. This is a remarkable figure. I am very pleased to have him.

The only way to get this figure is through the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club, and especially if you're a member thereof. The Club has been producing some amazing merchandise for G.I. Joe fans of all types for years now, at their excellent annual Conventions and beyond. Big Lob is a real winner. The Club took the shot, and they scored big time! So go check out the Club, and maybe you can still get Big Lob!

The OFFICIAL G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB figure of BIG LOB definitely has my highest recommendation!