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REVIEW:
G.I.JOE 8" COMBAT SQUAD SGT. BOULDER
By Thomas Wheeler


One of the divisions of 8" G.I. Joe figures in 2007 was called "Combat Squad". They were intended to be somewhat more military in character and appearance than most of the 8" G.I. Joes, which largely reflected the G.I. Joe-vs.-Cobra conflict.

Although the stylized appearance of these figures did impose certain limits on just how military they were really capable of appearing, the line nevertheless added some interesting new characters to the overall 8" G.I. Joe series.

One of these was Sgt. Boulder, a Mountain Scout. Although early indications listed this character as Alpine, who was the G.I. Joe Mountaineering Expert for the 3-3/4" G.I. Joe line, and was originally introduced in 1985, somewhere along the way, for whatever reason, the character's name was changed to Sgt. Boulder. While there are certain undeniable similarities between the two characters -- both are African-American, both have somewhat similar uniform colors -- we'll go with the official record here, and as such, this character is Sgt. Boulder. It's really not a bad name, and I'm honestly a little surprised that G.I. Joe never had more than one mountaineering expert on the team. Then again, I live in a city that's basically surrounded by mountains, so it's easy to be a little biased. I never thought there were enough desert specialists, either.

Sgt. Boulder is an amalgamation of previous parts, recolored, and he's a pretty interesting combination, at that. The figure uses the head of Heavy Duty. Honestly I'm a little surprised that they would use the head of that prominent and that distinctive-looking a character.

I'm fairly certain that the head used here was probably the head used for the second "Flamethrower" Heavy Duty, which was a rather scarce figure. There's two reasons I believe this to be the case. Unlike the original Heavy Duty, whom I own, the bandanna on the head is not removable. Also, the band-aid across the nose of the original, a little affectation of the rather anime environment in which the animated series took place (although in fairness, they did show Heavy Duty actually getting injured, but how long would this take to heal?!) is no longer present. He does have a fairly noticable scar across his nose, so apparently this was a fairly nasty injury to his proboscis. .

We'll just have to assume that Sgt. Boulder, at some point, suffered a similar injury.

The body used to make Sgt. Boulder is a recolored version of Shipwreck, and here's where things get a little strange from a visual standpoint, at least in my opinion. Shipwreck, in the 8" universe, was a pretty short guy, not really any taller than Tunnel Rat. He was, however, a lot broader and more muscular. What we had with Shipwreck, I always felt, was the "tough little guy". Although he didn't appear in the animated series, I sort of get the impression of him being akin to Wolverine from the X-Men. Perhaps not quite as ill-tempered, but someone whose height might tend to have him underestimated by the enemy, right up to the point where someone's stupid enough to pick a fight with him and then gets his clock cleaned for his trouble.

Heavy Duty, on the other hand, was one of the distinctly LARGER figures. In a line with an approximate "standard" of 8" for "normal human", Heavy Duty stood over 9" in height. So with all due respect to Sgt. Boulder as a new character, it's a little hard not to see him as a distinctly short version of Heavy Duty.

Now, I'm probably being somewhat unfair here. Even in the 3-3/4" line, identical heads were used to create different characters, and not just in the first year when the line was just getting started and, with few exceptions, there were three basic heads and about as many body formats. It happened in later years, too. The head for the character of Wild Card turned up a few years later as the head for another character called Major Altitude. So I should probably lighten up a bit.

And Hasbro has made a distinct effort to change the colors. Sgt. Boulder is a distinctly different shade of brown than Heavy Duty. And certainly the uniform is drastically different from Shipwreck's as far as colors are concerned. Sgt. Boulder is dressed in a light green shirt, with black trousers and brown boots. The bandanna is a dark red, and the gloves are black.

If I may be allowed a bit of a digression here. There was something about this uniform, especially the colors, that looked somehow familiar to me. But I couldn't quite place it. It wasn't something from the 3-3/4" G.I. Joe line. For that matter, there was something about the uniform colors and the exaggerated muscular physique, which the smaller G.I. Joes do not have, that was making me think I'd seen something akin to this before, but I just couldn't place it.

Finally, finally, I figued it out. Anybody remember the movie "Small Soldiers"? Interestingly enough, it has its 10th Anniversary in 2008, not that I expect anything to be done about it. DreamWorks hasn't really had any time for it since they put everything they had into a large green ogre, which I guess I can't blame them for since those movies have been hugely successful, while "Small Soldiers" fared only moderately well.

"Small Soldiers" told the story of two groups of action figures, the freakish but good-natured Gorgonites and the military and unfortunately villainous Commando Elite, outfitted with far-too-advanced computer chips, who basically proceeded to raise havoc in a suburban neighborhood. I loved the movie, and there was even an impressive toy line, ironically enough from Hasbro, that did well enough, although with the result that the Commandos were a lot more popular than the Gorgonites even though they were the bad guys, Hasbro should've re-evaluated its packing assortments a bit.

Honestly, there's a lot of structural similarities between the 8" G.I. Joe line and the Commando Elite. They're both reasonably human in appearance, but somewhat exaggerated. I'm somewhat surprised I didn't pick up on it before this. As for the case at hand, Sgt. Boulder is dressed VERY similarly, color-wise, to one of the Commandos named Nick Nitro. He has a light green shirt, and black trousers.

There are differences. Nick Nitro is white, for starters. And Sgt. Boulder does not have Nick Nitro's mohawk, or the massive chin that would make Jay Leno envious. Nick easily had the most exaggerated face of all the Commandos. But there are enough similarities between the two characters' likenesses to set off this bit of previous recognition in my mind, and I'm glad I finally figured it out.

It's been a while, I think, since I've discussed the articulation of these 8" G.I. Joes, and since that is always a major factor for me when it comes to action figures, it deserves mention. These figures are very well articulated. Sgt, Boulder, like the rest of the line, is poseable at the head, arms (outward movement as well as back and forth), elbows (including a swivel), wrists, mid-torso, waist (proving that it IS possible to do both the mid-torso AND waist articulation on the same figure...!), legs, knees (including a swivel), and ankles.

Sgt. Boulder also has the modern incarnation of Kung-Fu Grip! This special feature was, of course, a highlight of the Adventure Team line back in the 1970's, during the run of the original 12" G.I. Joe. It basically involved molding the hands in a grasping position, and making them out of a particularly flexible plastic, so they could hold their own accessories and other small objects, such as pencils and the like. Kung-Fu Grip has been adapted for the 8" figures, and is only used on the right hand, whereby the fingers are articulated and attached to a spring, which snaps the fingers inwards. This way, the figure can maintain a good grip on his weapons and other accessories.

Speaking of accessories, one distinct point to the 8" G.I. Joe line is that the figures are always well-accessorized. Now I'll admit I'm not much of an accessories fanatic. I'm in the market for FIGURES, and the amount or type of their accessories is largely irrelevant to me. At the same time, there are some things in this area that are noticeable. I have a 12" Mace Windu here from Episode I who has a blue lightsaber. This was before Samuel L. Jackson decided he wanted his character to have a purple one, especially since Mace did not raise a lightsaber in the first movie. When Hasbro made the original Oktober Guard characters for the G.I. Joe comic-based line, they made sure that Horror-Show was properly equipped with the rocket launcher weapon which he was best known for in the comics. I can appreciate this sort of thing, even if I don't regard accessories as a priority. I know a lot of collectors that do, however.

And it would be hard to miss the fact that the accessories in the 8" G.I. Joe series have consistently been of good quality, excellent detail, interesting function, and generally generous in supply. Certainly Sgt. Boulder's equipment list is no exception to this.

Sgt. Boulder is equipped with a large, long-distance rifle as his largest accessory, as well as two grenades and a fairly lengthy knife -- not quite long enough to qualify as being called a "sword" in my opinion. But, of course, he also has mountaineering equipment, which consists of a nice pair of binoculars with a strap, a grappling hook with a handle on it, and one fixed hook and two moveables ones, and a second grappling hook of a different design with three movable hooks on it, and a length of rope. The rope doesn't amount to much, being not quite twice Sgt. Boulder's height, but I'm sure it was what could be provided within the budget of the figure. If you want to do better, you can probably buy a pretty good-sized ball of string in a hardware store for a couple of bucks.

All of the accessories are a good, rather muted color scheme. Most of the hardware is black with brown trim. The grenades are mostly green. Even the rope is an appropriate tan color.

Sgt. Boulder was actually packaged sideways in his box (and I do find myself wondering to what degree that affected the decision of using the shorter "Shipwreck" body), with a backdrop of an obviously rather sheer mountain face. The photograph on the back of the package -- and these Combat Squad figures have had some really nice photographic work and my compliments to whoever set them up and took them -- also shows Sgt. Boulder making his way across a mountain, at what appears to be a considerable height.

Technically, the Combat Squad figures do not have full character file cards. But there is a bit of biographical information on the package, and for Sgt. Boulder, it reads as follows:

G.I.JOE MOUNTAIN SCOUT

Code Name: SGT. BOULDER

Expertise: Mountain Climbing

Special Training: Scouting Enemy Camps (this would explain the binoculars)

Weapons Proficiency: Long Distance Rifle, Grappling Hook

Tactics: Climbing Cliffs

Background: Leads a special military mountaineer team.

Now, unfortunately, the 8" G.I. Joe line has been canceled by Hasbro, and I really don't expect there's going to be much of a supply of them left by the time this article appears on the MasterCollector Web Site. However, if you've been a fan of the 8" G.I. Joe line, and can find him either in some store that still has some supply of them left, or through a friend or the secondary market, then you should definitely consider adding SGT. BOULDER to your collection. He's a cool figure, and he certainly has my enthusiastic recommendation!