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By Thomas Wheeler

Certainly the name of Gung-Ho has a long history with G.I. Joe. First introduced in 1983, Gung-Ho was the G.I. Joe team's first representative of the United States Marine Corps, and based on the massive Marine Corps tattoo on his chest, he was pretty proud of that fact. Gung-Ho was born and raised in Cajun country in Louisiana. In both the comic book and the animated series, he was presented as someone rough, tough, fairly uncouth, but a loyal friend and a powerful fighter. Definitely someone you wanted on your side, definitely someone you did not want to cross.

Early on in the comic book, when the G.I. Joe Team was treating a wounded Hawk on a busy street in Washington DC following a battle with Cobra Commander, and one morning commuter made the mistake of blaring his horn at the group, Gung-Ho approached him and, upon finding out that the car was a Shelby COBRA, a name that, needless to say, none of the Joe Team are especially find of, he tore the car apart with his bare hands.

Gung-Ho would continue to turn up throughout the run of the Real American Hero, appearing in Marine Dress Blues, heading up the Mega-Marines team, and appearing once again in 2005 as part of a Convention Exclusive set equipped to fight Destro's Iron Grenadiers' invasion of the former Soviet Union, along with Dragonsky and the Steel Brigade Commander.

Gung-Ho is easily one of the best-known members of the G.I. Joe Team, so it's no great surprise that he's finally made the jump over to the 8" line. And here I need to specify something. Until the assortment of figures that Gung-Ho is part of came out, I would be calling this the Sigma Six line. However, the Sigma Six concept has basically been dropped. There's still some evidence of it here and there, as figures using previous parts might still have the Sigma Six wrist communicator, or peg-holes on their uniforms for the placement of equipment, but the packaging no longer says Sigma Six, and the "6" logo is no longer on any of the uniforms. A new G.I. Joe logo, more or less a cross between the Sigma Six G.I. Joe logo and the 3-3/4" logo, has been developed. So, in fairness, these now just have to be called 8" G.I. Joes.

The basic style of the figures remains unchanged, a sort of semi-anime look to the overall design, that is certainly a departure from the more realistic 3-3/4" and certainly realistic 12" G.I. Joes. And it could well be argued that these 8" G.I. Joes are intended more for the kids than the collectors. Ultimately, that does have to be Hasbro's main audience if they are to survive as a toy company. So be it. That doesn't mean that these aren't interesting action figures, with enough cool features to keep adult fans interested.

And so we come to Gung-Ho. He is part of a new "Soldier" assortment of 8" G.I. Joe figures. The overall package design, despite the absence of any references to Sigma Six, still has a few carryovers. The typeface used to spell out Gung-Ho's name is the same as the Sigmas, and the character's file card on the back also uses this typeface. So I suspect we're looking at a sort of gradual departure of Sigma-related details.

The Soldier assortments of 8" G.I. Joe figures do not come with weapin crates, but that doesn't mean that they're short-changed in any major way. You're still getting a good 8" G.I. Joe figure, and a good supply of accessories to go with him.

Gung-Ho is listed on his package as a Marine, as well he should be, and he is also easily the most military-looking figure in the line to date, even allowing for some of the other non-Sigma figures that have been turning up. This is not simply a result of the fact that Gung-Ho is not wearing a Sigma Suit. Allowing for the admittedly stylized appearance of the 8" G.I. Joe line, the end result with this Gung-Ho is somone very military in appearance.

What is a little surprising is Gung-Ho's size. I suspect many fans were expecting a powerhouse on a scale akin to Heavy Duty, but that's not really the case here. Gung-Ho is of average height and build. His arms and upper body actually look rather slender. However, part of this is simply due to the design and style of the figures. Gung-Ho's arms are sleeveless, not protected in a Sigma Suit, but they still have a good muscle definition to them, and I suspect anyone underestimating this version of Gung-Ho within the world of G.I. Joe would find themselves on the receiving end of a nasty fight.

Gung-Ho's legs and feet are molded to look like fairly bulky trousers and boots, which likely adds to the slender look of his upper body. Again, I suspect this slender look is extremely deceptive.

Underneath the harness Gung-Ho is wearing on his chest, the shirt has white letters spelling out, of course, "USMC". This Gung-Ho is just as proud of his Marine background as his smaller predecessor. But what of the chest tattoo? It's been moved to his upper left arm, but it's still there. This isn't the first time Gung-Ho's tattoo has gone roving, either. The 1992 Gung-Ho in the 3-3/4" line shifted the tattoo. It shifted back to the chest on a recoloration of the same figure in 1993. I'm not sure how Gung-Ho does this, but I'll bet it stings! Still, he's a Marine. He's a tough guy. He can take it.

Gung-Ho is wearing a very impressive and nicely detailed helmet that is suitably military in design, and has camouflage-aiding leaves stuffed into the band around it. There's a couple of gadgets molded to the side of the helmet, and a well-designed chin strap. Interestingly, underneath the helmet, Gung-Ho has hair! Wait, hasn't he always been portrayed as bald? Well -- that's open to debate. Both the 1983 and 1987 Gung-Ho's sort of looked like they could have had hair painted on, and while the animated series always showed Gung-Ho as bald, in his early appearances in the comic book, he had hair. It would probably be fair to say that, most of the time, Gung-Ho probably shaved his head, and his 8" counterpart decided to grow it out to a crewcut. Fortunately, his signature mustache remains present and accounted for.

Overall, the figure is dressed in very military shades of olive green and medium brown. Most of the paint work is good, although it's a little sloppy on the harness. I can see where it was painted by hand and not sprayed through a stencil. Whoever did it did a decent enough job, but it still shows. I have heard that Hasbro is starting to correct this situation on the toy lines that have been affected by it, and if that information is accurate, it's none too soon. But I consider it unusual on Gung-Ho seeing as how I didn't see any evidence of a similar situation on either Inferno or the Iron Grenadier, whom Gung-Ho shares an assortment with.

There is a new feature with the latest 8" G.I. Joe figures -- it's the return of (or at least a new incarnation of) something that was quite legendary towards the end of the original 12" line of G.I. Joe figures -- KUNG-FU GRIP! And it's a little hard to miss the bright red and yellow sticker on the package attesting to that fact.

However, where the 12" G.I. Joes accomplished this by clenched hands with rubbery fingers that allowed them to grasp objects that could fit within their hands, the 8" G.I. Joes accomplish this with spring-loaded fingers on the right hand. They even went so far as to paint the back of the right glove with a little area of red, which personally I don't think was that necessary. The spring inside the hand seems to have a good amount of tension to it, even though the grasping radius of the hand is relatively small, due to the size of the figure, of course. However, it should still be useful in helping the figure hold onto his accessories.

In Gung-Ho's case, he comes with plenty of additional hardware, most of it pretty large. One thing about the Sigma Six/8" G.I. Joe line -- they do a superb job with accessories. Gung-Ho comes with a "rapid action blaster" that really looks like a large machine gun. it's fairly realistic, moreso than some weaponry I've seen in this line. There's also an ammo belt, which Gung-Ho can wear, but if it's placed into the machine gun and pulled through, it makes part of the gun barrel slide back and forth.

Gung-Ho also comes with a small knife and sheath, and then there's my favorite of his accessories, the "Tactical Multi-Tool". Picture, if you will, a super-sized Swiss Army Knife. That's basically what this is. It's a two-handled tool unit that is equipped with flip-out knife, awl, axe, and shovel. Honestly, I'm surprised someone hasn't thought of something like this for the real-world military.

Gung-Ho has a file card on the back of his package, and it reads as follows:


Code Name: Gung-Ho

Specialty: Heavy Weapons

Personal History: Gung-Ho is an expert in military tactics and operations, and a one-man Marine fighting force for the G.I. Joe Team. From small, fast-strike units to large-scale assaults, Gung-Ho can assemble the right team, weapons, and plan-of-action to get the job done fast and clean. On every mission, he carries a rapid-action blaster with control-burst firing and sight correction, and brings a multi-tool that can handle whatever the situation calls for - dig a shelter, fight the enemy, or break down a reinforced door.

Overall, this is a cool figure. It takes a little getting used to the absence of the Sigma Suit, and granted, the overall design, even allowing for the size and style of the figure, doesn't really look that much like any previous incarnation of Gung-Ho. But there's something in the face that still looks like everyone's favorite G.I. Joe jarhead. And on the whole, the design is an excellent one.

The G.I. JOE 8" GUNG-HO figure definitely has my recommendation! YO JOE!