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REVIEW: G.I. JOE - PURSUIT OF COBRA BLOWTORCH
By Thomas Wheeler

For the first several years of its existence, G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO, stuck to a pretty conservative and reasonably military color scheme. Greens, browns, and blacks for the Joe Team, and largely blues and blacks, with some red trim, for Cobra. There were a few variances. Scarlett wasn't exactly dressed in a traditional military uniform, but the beige and gray was still a reasonably subdued color scheme. And the Cobra H.I.S.S. Driver wore bright red, but you figure, he was surrounded by a H.I.S.S. Tank, one of the toughest items in Cobra's arsenal, so he could probably get away with it.

Then along came 1984, and while there were some reasonably traditionally dressed -- or at least traditionally-colored -- characters such as Duke, Rip Cord, and Roadblock, there was also one surprisingly brightly-garbed new member of the team. His name was BLOWTORCH, and he was the Joe Team's new flamethrower specialist. And his uniform was a very bright yellow, with equally bright red flameproof padding!

No way this guy was going to conceal himself on a battlefield. Granted, his color scheme seemed to be designed to reflect the colors of flame, which was certainly what he was used to working around. How effective this might be in the long run I really don't know. Any number of real world military forces have had flamethrower specialists, and none of them have dressed like this. Don't get me started on the fact that the Oktober Guard's flamethrower specialist, Dragonsky, dresses in purple...

My reaction to Blowtorch? I liked him. Now, I realize I may have been in a moderate minority with this. There are always those who will say that G.I. Joe, regardless of figure size or backstory, should first and foremost be a military concept, and the characters should look the part. To a degree, they have a point.

G.I. Joe isn't about super-heroes. It isn't science-fiction -- except insofar as the technology in the G.I. Joe universe seems to be moderately in advance of our own in certain cases. It's not some magical sword and sorcery concept. You're not going to see Duke hold aloft a magic sword and yell "By the Power of Patton!" and be transformed into -- well, let's not even go there. And Battle Android Troopers notwithstanding (there's that advanced technology), G.I. Joe isn't even about robots. G.I. Joe is arguably the most realistic, or close to the real world, pop culture concept that there is. I can see why a certain segment of the fandom would want it to adhere as closely to reality as possible.

And yet, I can see some points on the flip side of the coin, and even agree with them. Ultimately, G.I. Joe is a toy line. And sometimes, you need to brighten toys up a bit to get attention. Additionally, I've long felt that G.I. Joe, in the days of the Real American Hero, quickly became less about being as realistically military as possible, and increasingly became more about the character interaction, and the struggle of good vs. evil. I don't know a lot of people that think of the characters as being a first sergeant, a commando, a counter-intelligence specialist, or an enemy weapons supplier. I can think of plenty of people that readily recognize the names Duke, Snake-Eyes, Scarlett, and Destro.

So I've tended to be a little more forgiving than many collectors when it comes to the wilder color schemes that have cropped up over the years within the world of G.I. Joe, and they certainly did so in the later years of the original run. In more recent years, that's been scaled back quite a bit. But at the time, Blowtorch, in 1984, was very dynamic, and quite surprising. He would admittedly later be outshone (perhaps literally), by members of some of the special teams, such as the Mega-Marines, the Eco Warriors, and some of Ninja Force, but at the time, he definitely stood out in the crowd.

Blowtorch made a handful of appearances in the Marvel comic, as well as the animated series, where he showed a pronounced Irish accent, but despite his bright uniform, he never really achieved top-player status.

Blowtorch never turned up again during the original run of the series. He did put in an appearance in the newsculpt line, in 2002, but this was an oddball of a figure. For starters, it changed Blowtorch's formerly brown hair to a very pale blonde. His former bright uniform colors were replaced by a dark tan-green uniform with metallic gold and black trim. In and of itself, it wasn't necessarily a bad figure -- it just didn't look much like Blowtorch's original incarnation. Honestly, the uniform colors looked a little more like Charbroil, a second flamethrower assigned to the team in 1988, but even then, the hair color was off. Charbroil was a redhead.

Blowtorch did return in 2009, as part of the 25th Anniversary series, in the new figure format that has since become dubbed "25th-style" among many collectors, despite the fact that the 25th Anniversary line has since been supplanted by the movie-based line, and ITS successor, the Pursuit Of Cobra line, which itself will be supplanted by the 30th Anniversary line. My, how time flies.

According to his original file card, Blowtorch is one Timothy R. Hanrahan from Tampa, Florida. The card outlines his expertise, and then adds the following personal notes in the second paragraph: "Blowtorch can't sleep unless he's near a smoke detector. Cigarette smoke drives him bananas! He always sits near the exit in movie theaters, and refuses to live anywhere where he can't safely jump out the windows. This is not irrational to him. These are actions based on intimate knowledge."

This -- character trait was showcased at least once in the comic book, when Blowtorch was at a local mall with Spirit and Rip Cord. Someone smoking a cigarette walked by, and Blowtorch reacted, saying he wished they wouldn't let people smoke in malls. Ultimately, he does seem to have gotten his wish. A lot of malls these days are non-smoking environments.

At least some of this information has been brought over to the new file card, which, although nowhere near as informative as the originals, are at least moreso than the distinctly truncated movie file cards.

Blowtorch is still Timothy P. Hanrahan from Tampa, Florida. His primary weapon is described as an FHB-F Focused Heat Burst Flamethrower. The card reads as follows:

Blowtorch is thoroughly familiar with all military incendiary devices and flame projection equipment. To Blowtorch, the use of fire in combat is a science that predates the bow and arrow. He is studying structural and chemical engineering, because he wants to know everything he can about the weapons he uses or are used against him, and about structures he might be called upon to attack or protect.

The more personal paragraph has been eliminated, but at least the current cards are decently informative as to the professional life of the character.

So, how's the figure? Really, a very capable rendition of the character. The colors are moderately more subdued than the original Blowtorch. I suspect I would need to get the specific 25th Anniversary version of the modern Blowtorch if I wanted an exact match. But he's still a definite standout in the current crowd, there's no question of that.

Blowtorch is wearing a largely yellow uniform, with thick red padding around the lower torso, upper legs, two segments on the lower legs, and on the upper and lower arms. He has a separate piece of chest padding, that also serves to do a decent job of concealing the mid-torso articulation point, at least from the front. This articulation point has arguably been one of the most controversial aspects of the current G.I. Joe figure format. On far too many figures, it just doesn't look that great, so various means have been devised when possible to conceal it a bit.

The padding is removable, but you have to pop the head off to do it. It also seems a bit loose, but when Blowtorch is fully geared up, his backpack holds the chestplate in place, because the chestplate has a hole for the backpack peg that aligns to a hole on the back of the actual figure. Blowtorch doesn't have a lot of armored padding on his back. In fact, there's hardly any. One would assume that the entire uniform is flame protective, and that the additional red padding provides more personal protection from anyone that might be shooting at him as he advances.

There are a few color differences. Blowtorch has gray gloves and shoes. The original figure, and for that matter the first 25th Anniversary Blowtorch, had yellow gloves and shoes. Honestly, I rather like the gray. It adds a little more color, and also gives him a small bit of color in common with any number of other G.I. Joes, without detracting much from his primary color scheme, which is certainly a hallmark of the character. In an impressive bit of paint detailing, the shoes have red soles.

Most of the red padding on Blowtorch's uniform is very neatly painted, although there are a few spots here and there that look as though they were hand-painted, rather than painted through a stencil or paint mask as they should be. Fortunately for Blowtorch, the red pads are so pronounced that it would be very nearly impossible to mess up, so they still look okay.

Blowtorch's headsculpt is a capable modern rendering of the original. The hair is still parted on the same side, and it is once again the correct shade of brown. I have no idea where that blonde Blowtorch in the newsculpt line came from, and it wasn't even styled properly, I don't believe. Blowtorch has a slight smile on his face, much like the original, and a somewhat longer than average nose.

My only gripe here is that the eyes could have been a little more neatly painted. They're slightly off, as in I think someone's aim was off. Unfortunately -- the figure was wearing his helmet and face mask in the package, so there was no way to check the painted details on the face. Now, I'll grant that I tend to be very picky about paint jobs. But it seems to me that if a G.I. Joe has a full headsculpt, then I should be able to see it in the package. Keep the helmet to one side as the accessory it is. Neither the original Blowtorch nor the first 25th Anniversary version had Blowtroch wearing his helmet in the package. I don't know if it had anything to do with the fact that the painted artwork for the figure was wearing the helmet and face mask, but that shouldn't've made a difference. It's not that big a deal, I suppose, but I still say it was not the best choice.

One other uniform note -- this Blowtorch has something that the original definitely did not have -- a small red fire extinguisher strapped to the back of his belt. As to the separate accessories, regardless of whether Blowtorch should've been wearing his helmet and face mask in the package or not, they're very nicely made, and align well. They're two separate pieces, but the face mask attaches to the helmet, and lines up very nicely with the contours of the helmet itself. The helmet is yellow, whereas the face mask, in another color change from the original, is a sort of olive gray, with a dark gray visor. There's a little tab at the top that fits under the helmet. The face mask has a hose that attaches to a small hole on a mechanism on the front of the chest plate.

Blowtorch's main piece of equipment is his backpack. This is his flamethrower, which also includes a flexible hose that attaches to a rifle-like device that is the actual flamethrower mechanism. The backpack is, as much as anything, a fuel tank. Everything is superbly detailed, and nicely painted. The backpack is mostly yellow, with silver tanks and hose, and the flamethrower device is olive gray.

Other accessories include a red fire axe, a separate fire extinguisher with a small hose, "flame mines", and a black rifle -- just in case torching whatever his target is doesn't work and he has to shoot it instead. All of these accessories are very nicely made, well detailed, and as needed, nicely painted. The axe has a silver blade, and both of the fire extinguishers -- the separate one and the one Blowtorch is wearing -- have printed labels on them. The printing, as far as I can tell, is too small and not intended to be legible for the most part.

Of course, Blowtorch is very well articulated, and is poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), glove tops (representing wrists), mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles.

One additional note: The various G.I. Joe and Cobra figures in this post-movie line are assigned to various environments for their battles -- Arctic, Urban, Jungle, that sort of thing. For whatever reason, Blowtorch got assigned to the jungle mission. Now, personally, I think that's the last place you want to turn someone loose with flamethrowing equipment.

However, Blowtorch's mission placement has resulted in an interesting variant of the figure, which I have yet to see in person, but it was shown in the official Magazine for the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club. It's a recoloring of Blowtorch, more suitable to blending in with a jungle environment, and the figure has a tan uniform with olive green padding.

So, twenty-seven years after his initial release, Blowtorch finally gets a uniform where he can blend in militarily...!

So, what's my final word? I'm glad to have him. I wish the eyes were a little more neatly painted, but there was honestly no way to tell. And that's really my only, relatively minor gripe with this figure. He's otherwise a very capable modern rendition of Blowtorch, who's always been a personal favorite member of the Joe Team. And he'll make a nice color complement to Sci-Fi and the Techno-Viper when they show up.

The figure of BLOWTORCH from the current G.I. JOE action figure line definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation.