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By Thomas Wheeler

There's always some additional figures available at each year's G.I. Joe
Convention, apart from the boxed set of fifteen. This year's are just as immensely cool as the boxed set itself.

If Destro and the Iron Grenadiers are going to try to take over factories in
the former Soviet Union to transform them into munitions plants, then the Joes are going to be there to try to stop them. And yet, the former Soviet Union is outside of United States jurisdiction. What to do? Simple -- call in an ally from the Oktober Guard, round up one of the meanest Joes ever who happens to be in the area, and team them up with the international security force that is affiliated with the Joes -- the Steel Brigade! This ain't no UN peacekeeping force! No silly little powder blue helmets here! This bunch is here to make sure Destro and his troops get kicked right back where they came from! Let's see who we've got here.

DRAGONSKY - The well-known sixth member of the Oktober Guard. Dragonsky first appeared in G.I. Joe Yearbook #2, which was only the second appearance of the Oktober Guard. A flamethrower by specialty, Dragonsky had the most atypical uniform of any of the members of the Guard, then or ever. It was sort of a dark magenta, with purple armor to protect Dragonsky from the high-powered flamethrowing equipment he used. Dragonsky was also one of only two survivors of the tragedy that befell the rest of the original Oktober Guard, interestingly enough at the hands of the Iron Grenadiers, in G.I. Joe Special Missions #26. It's fair to say that this guy's got every reason to have a serious mad-on for Destro's bunch, but as his file card reveals, it's even more personal than this.

Interestingly enough, there was almost a Dragonsky figure in 1993. There was one in the works as an addition to the Eco-Warirors team. But when the Soviet Union collapsed in real-life, and the Eco-Warriors hit the clearance bins about the same time, plans for the figure were scrapped. So Dragonsky is really pretty overdue.

The figure is superb. For the most part, the figure is BLAST OFF, from the
Mega-Marines. But the facial features have been painted somewhat differently, so it doesn't really reesemble that character. The upper torso has also been switched with the Star Brigade Duke figure, a much better choice. For the most part, Dragonsky's uniform matches the pattern of the other figures in this bonus pack, which was described on one of the file cards as "Urban Rain Camo". It's a very distinctive and complex pattern, showing once again the level of detail that the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club was prepared to go to in order to achieve some of the coolest Joe figures ever. It's several shades of grey with thin streaks of black imprinted over it. This can't have been easy.

Of course, you can't have Dragonsky without having SOME level of purple on the uniform, so Dragonsky's headpiece, chest, and back armor are an approproate shade of purple.

Dragonsky's accessories are perfect. He comes with flamethrowing equipment that even includes a snap-on burst of flame! Nice touch.

This fantastic figure's file card reads as follows:

Andrei "DRAGONSKY" Freisov
Oktober Guard Flamethrower
File Name: Andrei Freisov
Primary Military Specialty: Infantry/Special Weapons
Secondary Military Specialty: Mechanical Engineer
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia

Andrei "Dragonsky" Freisov is a member of the OKTOBER GUARD (Russian/Warsaw Pact equivalent of the G.I. Joe Team), and an expert with special weaponry, including his favorite - the flamethrower. His interest in fire control and the military started at an early age. As a child, he was seen throwing Molotov cocktails at German Panzers when they invaded his homeland. He later joined the Soviet Army and had a long and successful military career. His greatest honor came with the invitation to join the elite Oktober Guard. Dragonsky carries the latest in military pyro-technology and wears a special flame-retardant suit. He is a very dedicated and loyal individual, always ready to protect his comrades even when the odds are against him.

Early in Dragonsky's military career, he was trained by a brilliant commander who later proved to be insane and immoral. Because he failed to turn him in when he had the chance, the Oktober Guardsman has made it his personal responsbility to someday bring down the madman. Even though his personal nemesis now goes by the name of General Mayhem, the brutal tactics are all too familiar to Dragonsky. It is to this end that he seeks the assistance of the G.I.Joe Team in capturing General Mayhem for his crimes against the motherland.

"Even in Siberia, I make sure things get really hot."

This is really an excellent file card. Obviously Hasbro wasn't able to
trademark the name "Dragonsky" specifically, so he was given a more complete name. The same thing happened with Horror-Show. But the first paragraph nicely outlines the characters background, and is well in keeping with the established history of the character in the comic book, including the reference to his being a mechanical engineer. Daina has refered to Dragonsky more than once as a "fixer". The second paragraph does a good job of expanding the Convention Set's storyline, giving Dragonsky a personal reason to go after General Mayhem, who is
Destro's new general over the Iron Grenadiers.

GUNG-HO - One of the most popular Joes, first introduced in 1983, Gung-Ho has been a prominent member of the team ever since. He's known for being one crazy Cajun Marine, as tough and as nasty as they come, especially when faced with Cobra. Almost anything named Cobra will do. He once, in the comic book, tore apart a Shelby Cobra with his bare hands, that was trying to get around the Joe Team, that was stuck in traffic in Washington D.C. after Hawk had been wounded. Anybody that can take apart a car with his bare hands is definitely someone you want on your side, and you want to keep him that way.

So, how'd he end up in Russia alongside Dragonsky going up against the Iron Grenadiers? It's all explained on the file card:

G.I. Joe Marine Recon
File Name: LaFitte, Ettienne R.
Primary Military Specialty: Reconnaissance
Secondary Military Specialty: Heavy Weapons
Birthplace: Fer-de-Lance, LA

Gung-Ho may be the toughest G.I. Joe of all time - just ask anyone who has ever been at the receiving end of the ragin' Cajun's fists. He is always the first out of the transport, the first to take down enemy guards, and the first to run out of ammo. His fighting spirit makes him an inspiration to his fellow soldiers, but also his own worst enemy; he has been promoted for heroism and later demoted for off-duty brawling so many times, his superiors often are at a loss as to what his current rank should be.

Gung-Ho was on vacation in a Russian SAMBO camp, learning the secret Soviet martial arts, when he got the orders to take charge of a Steel Brigade Team and help foil Destro's latest sceme. Normally, cutting short his "rest and relaxation" would be infuriating, but for Gung-Ho, putting down the Iron Grenadiers is almost as much fun. The Marine seems to be making a habit out of crushing Destro's plans, and working with the Steel Brigade and Oktober Guard just adds more spice to the gumbo.

"I don't care what kind of fancy armor that tin-plated capon has, I'll crush
him like a crawfish in a vise grip."

I thought Larry Hama was writing these cards, but both David S. Lane and Brian Mulholland are doing one heck of a good impression.

The Gung-Ho figure is based on the 1993 Mega-Marines Gung-Ho, but you'd scarcely know it. The formerly rather bright uniform has been given the "Urban Rain Camo" treatment, and doesn't even have the purple trim that Dragonsky's uniform has. The mottled and streaked grey is overlayed with some very dark grey and black armor, and only a hint of gold trim here and there. Really, it's a very effective and plausible uniform design. This is an excellent Gung-Ho figure.

STEEL BRIGADE COMMANDER - The Steel Brigade has quite an interesting history within the world of G.I. Joe. The name was first introduced to represent a special mail-order action figure, that was largely cobbled together from other figure parts, recolored, and then given an all-covering helmet. The idea was that you filled out an order form with the details that you wanted, including choosing a code-name which you thought up entirely, and then you would receive a Steel Brigade figure with a customized file card.

There were several versions of the Steel Brigade Trooper over the next
several years, and all of them were quite popular, and remain highly collectible to this day. The original Steel Brigade Trooper had a largely silver helmet, with a light blue shirt, olive drab vest, and tan trousers. This was later altered to a mostly gold helmet, dark blue shirt, green vest, and dark blue trousers. There are also a couple of variations within these color schemes.

The only other official reference to the Steel Brigade was in a series of
metal G.I. Joe vehicles issues by Hasbro through Tonka, which they picked up in their acquisition of Kenner in the early 90's. Since these vehicles were
designed to be made out of tough metal, and yet still be roughly of a size to accommodate G.I. Joes, they were given the Steel Brigade name and insignia.

Now, the Steel Brigade is back, with a far better defined function. They're
the international arm of G.I. Joe, probably with greater jurisdiction to enter
various countries than the main Joe Team has. The helmet has changed.
Technically, the helmet used for the Steel Brigade Convention figures is that of the Cobra Blackstar, a character developed for the Star Brigade team. However, it's actually quite close in design to the Steel Brigade helmet. In fact, it's a distinct improvement. The original Steel Brigade helmet was a huge thing. One as the technology to do so became available, and if the possibly don't see it implausible that someone in the Steel Brigade would see it as a decent upgrade. Even the silver and gold colors are maintained from the mail order days. The Commander has a gold helmet. The Steel Brigade Paratroopers (see next entry) have silver. Nice touch.

The rest of the Steel Brigade Commander figure is a recolored version of the Windchill body. It's an excellent choice. The uniform is a little
dressy-looking, with a fancy buttoned jacket and high gloves and boots. But it's an excellent design, and the "Urban Rain Camo" is in evidence on the trousers, which is a good thing, seeing as how it's the Steel Brigade Commander's file card that mentions it:

G.I. Joe Security Force Leader
File Name: Classified
Primary Military Specialty: Counterintelligence
Seconday Military Specialty: Helicopter Pilot
Birthplace: Los Angeles CA

The Steel Brigade Commander is the leader of the international security forces for the G.I. Joe team. His primary duty is to provide highly trained and capable security personnel with the abilities to fight the enemy on the land, the sea, and the air. His tactics include defensive combat operations as well as providing aggressive reconnaissance to gain all possible information about the enemy and terrain. Once the threat is determined, he can allocate the resources from an integrated military structure and safeguard the freedom and security of his mission objectives - all from behind enemy lines.

It takes a fearless and determined individual to engage the enemy on their
own territory. The Steel Brigade Commander always rises to this challenge and deploys his troops wherever they're needed to support the G.I. Joe team. He has been known to be a harsh taskmaster, but those gifted enough to make the cut respect his leadership methods. In the field, he wears a prototype version of the Urban Rain Camo which he designed especially for missions in the concrete jungle. His hemlet is also unique, containing the latest in micro-computer technology, including GPS tracking and radio communication links to each Steel Brigade team member.

"Backed with steel, we are strong - with our might we can't go wrong!"

Okay, he's a good military commander -- but he should leave the poetry to
Major Bludd...

These three figures - DRAGONSKY, GUNG-HO, and the STEEL BRIGADE COMMANDER, were all part of a special three-pack that was available at the G.I. Joe Convention. But there was also an additional two-pack available -- a set of two STEEL BRIGADE PARATROOPERS. Let's review them now.

It took me a while to figure out who this figure was made out of. The helmet was the same former Cobra Blackstar helmet that the Steel Brigade Commander was now using, but I couldn't get a handle on the rest of the figure. I finally determined that the body was that of the 1991 Duke. Not too surprising I didn't readily recognize it. This is easily my least favorite version of Duke. The body's not really a bad design, but the headsculpt had too large a nose for his character. Nothing that couldn't be remedied by some sandpaper, but still...!

The arms were different, too, and were a little more readily identified. They
came from Barricade. The end result, especially with the considerable
recoloring of the -- body parts (I wish there were a less -- morbid- sounding way of describing that) from any previous version, once again using the "Urban Rain Camo" with a silver helmet, very dark grey vest, and black gloves and boots, is a pair of enormously effective and cool-looking figures. Each one comes with a working red mylar parachute and other accessories. Hey, somebody's gotta pick off those parachuting Iron Anvils on the way down if at all possible. The file card reads as follows:

G.I. Joe Security Force
File Name: Various
Primary Military Specialty: Airborne Infantry
Secondary Military Specialty: Reconnaissance
Birthplace: Various

The Steel Brigade Paratroopers are members of the G.I. Joe Team's
international Security Force. They can quickly provide regional stability to "hot spots" throughout the world without drawing the attention that the visible presence of the regular G.I. Joe Team world. Each Steel Brigade combat team member functions as a reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition squadron. The entire subteam is comprised of specially talented and highly trained individuals, both military and civilian, some of whom distinguish themselves sufficiently enough to later be chosen to join the G.I. Joe Team full time.

The Steel Brigade Paratrooper helmet has a built-in oxygen mask and
communications system that allows each wearer to be tied into a tactical local-area network with their Steel Brigade Commander. The visor has optical display screens with a heads-up targeting sight along with night vision and infrared heat source sensors. Although the helmets look strange, these guys can meet any challenge head on!

"We fight for freedom - wherever there's trouble!"

Boy, there's a familiar refrain... Nice touch, actually.

Finally, there's one figure I didn't receive, but he was pretty limited, so
that's okay. The Convention offered a specially recolored version of the COBRA JUNGLE-VIPER, a recent Club exclusive which I DID receive. Apparently the Convention version was somewhat lighter in color, and came outfitted with a parachute for the Convention's traditional parachute drop. This event returned after a one-year absence, since I rather suspect that at last year's Convention, Disney officials wouldn't have appreciated G.I. Joe figures dropping onto the Monorail track inside the Contemporary Resort, even if the facility was otherwise ideally suited for such an event.

The Jungle-Viper is a new-style figure, but as I reviewed the regular Club
version on his own, he's still pretty cool. There aren't that many Cobra
troopers dressed in green, for one thing. Certainly he looked the part more then the odd Cobra Wilderness Troopers, the Range-Vipers, who were produced in 1990, and outfitted in rather garish blue, yellow-gold, and black. And seeing as how the 2005 Convention set focused on the Iron Grenadiers, and the additional figures represented G.I. Joe and the Oktober Guard, it's nice to see that Cobra managed to stick their nose into the show SOMEHOW.

The Jungle-Viper's file card for the Convention, which was printed in the
Convention program, reads as follows:

Cobra Jungle Assault Trooper
Primary Military Specialty: Jungle Operations
Secondary Military Specialty: Paratrooper

Jungle Vipers are tenacious and deadly in their domain. They are equipped to survive oppressive heat and humidity, and must forage for their own food and supplies. Trained in guerrilla fighting techniques, they usually supplant any natural predators wherever they are posted. These troopers enjoy the thrill of the hunt and often climb into trees, hiding for days until their prey wanders into one of their many snare traps.

The most ferocious Jungle Vipers receive additional aerial assault training
for missions that require insertion into jungle environments so hostile that an aerial drop is the only way in. Legend has it that a squad once hijacked a military cargo plane that had landed for refueling, and stripped it of
everything they could carry. Later, they discovered that one of the stolen crates contained G.I. Joe parachutes, which they used to infiltrate and sabotage a G.I. Joe survival training camp. To this day, the Jungle Viper corps prefer to use G.I. Joe parachutes, as standard Cobra-issue are made by the lowest bidder and notorious for not opening, and the fact that the G.I. Joe parachutes are actially made by one of Destro's M.A.R.S. subsidiaries.

"When your soldiers start mysteriously disappearing from your ranks, assume we are present - and run!"

These five figures which I received are truly amazing, and I imagine that the Jungle Viper is pretty cool as well. If you've acquired the main boxed set for the 2005 G.I.Joe Convention, you've got fifteen really cool figures
-- but you don't have them all, and these additional five -- DRAGONSKY, GUNG-HO, the STEEL BRIGADE COMMANDER, the two STEEL BRIGADE PARATROOPERS, and the JUNGLE VIPER PARATROOPER are certainly to be most highly recommended, and Brian Savage and the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club are to be just as highly commended for turning out such amazing figures! Thank you, and YO JOE!