REVIEW: OFFICIAL G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB MEMBERSHIP FIGURE ICEBERG
Each year, the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club presents a figure that is offered as part of either a new or renewing membership in the club. For the past several years, that figure has been a modern-style incarnation of an established character from the original line, someone who otherwise had yet to make it into the modern line, and given the movie-and-post-movie direction of the main modern line, probably didn't stand much chance of doing so if it hadn't been for the Club.
These figures, as much as anything, take their conceptual cue from the 25th Anniversary line, which started out offering modern-style figures of classic characters in classic looks on classic cards. So far, the Club has presented very effective modern-style versions of FOOTLOOSE and DIAL-TONE. For 2013, the official exclusive membership figure is -- ICEBERG! Let's have a brief look at his history.
Iceberg was introduced in 1986, arguably the third arctic-based trooper assigned to the G.I. Joe team. The first was Snow Job in 1983, and the second one, Frostbite, came along in 1985 as the driver of the excellent Snow Cat vehicle.
There have certainly been others since then. Blizzard, Cold Front, Avalanche, Windchill, and others. Cobra hasn't exactly slacked off on cold climate specialists, with Snow Serpents and Ice-Vipers all over the place.
Iceberg's file card, which I'll go into greater detail with later, lists him as being from Texas -- not exactly a state known for its skiing and snowball fights. Iceberg so detested the heat that when he enlisted he made sure he was assigned to Alaska.
However, even Iceberg apparently has his limits. When he first turned up in the animated series, as part of the second season of the original program, in the "Arise, Serpentor, Arise" mini-series, he was assigned with a team to some of the colder climates of the Soviet Union alongside several members of the Oktober Guard. The Oktober Guard didn't seem the least bit fazed by the cold, but even Iceberg was having trouble coping.
Iceberg, being part of the 1986 lineup of figures, was given a fair bit of emphasis in the second season of the series. Perhaps not as much as some, since other 1986 characters such as Beach Head, Sci-Fi, Leatherneck, and others, weren't as environmentally specific.
Nevertheless, Iceberg had his moments in the spotlight, including one episode which revealed that Dr. Mindbender was performing genetic experiments, blending human and animal DNA to create more powerful warriors. This was an interesting foreshadowing of the "Valor vs. Venom" concept that would be introduced into the action figure line almost 20 years later! Iceberg had the misfortune of being transformed into a killer whale, of all things. Fortunately, he was transformed back before the people from Sea World showed up.
The original Iceberg figure was an African-American man wearing a mostly white, padded-looking uniform with a light blue vest. He had a fur hat that looked vaguely Russian in design (don't believe me? Ask Big Bear). He had dark green goggles and gloves, and dark green bands around his boots. He had a green strap over his chest with a white holster and a dark green gun and grenade attached to it. There was an emblem on his upper right sleeve, a red circle with three wavy lines inside of it.
Iceberg would make two additional appearances in the figure line. He turned up again in 1993. This was an entirely new figure. This time around, Iceberg was wearing a yellow ski-mask which left the area around his eyes exposed. His jacket was white with gray star-shaped camouflage on it, and his trousers were white. His boots still had some dark green trim on them, a mild color holdover from the original.
Iceberg's gloves were the same bright yellow as his ski mask, as were the bullets on the ammo belts he wore across his chest. This, as much as anything, I suspect, was a way of bringing some of the later years' color scheme to Iceberg while still maintaining white as his primary color for the sake of his specialty. There were several black grenades secured to the ammo belts, as well.
Iceberg's final appearance was in 1997, as part of the Toys "R" Us exclusive 15th Anniversary line. Here, Iceberg was part of a three-pack of Joe Team arctic specialists that also included Snow Job and Blizzard. This Iceberg used the original molds from 1986, but the figure was notable recolored. There was no evidence of any bright colors to speak of. Iceberg's entire uniform was white and gray arctic camouflage, and the rest of the color scheme on the trim was similarly subdued. One additional bit of paint detail was that the whites of his eyes were painted. Although the 1993 figure had done this, the 1986 hadn't, as it wasn't a common practice at the time.
After that, Iceberg -- well -- vanished into the arctic wilderness. He never turned up in the so-called "newsculpt" line which ran from 2002-2006. He wasn't even part of any of the special team sets of classic-style figures that turned up at Toys "R" Us during that time. He didn't even name it onto the Winter Operations Team set, which included such unusual entries as Snake-Eyes, and a completely transparent Mirage, certainly living up to his name in this instance.
Precisely why he wasn't brought in, I couldn't say. However, it's possible that the molds simply weren't available. That sort of thing has been known to happen, especially when the molds are loaned out to international toy companies that are producing G.I. Joe figures under license for their own markets, and here we do have to take a look at the international side of Iceberg.
Funskool in India produced several incarnations of Iceberg for their G.I. Joe series, using the original 1986 molds. I'm not saying that this is why Iceberg wasn't available for later use, but it is interesting to note what Funskool did with the character. For whatever reason, they turned from from African-American, to white.
There were three versions of Iceberg produced by Funskool over a number of years. The first one was essentially identical to the original, skin color notwithstanding. The second one traded out the blue and green trim for -- of all things -- pink and red. Not even going to try to explain that. The third version went back to the original color scheme, but gave him black goggles. Which while perhaps not the most arctic color in the world, was doubtless preferable to a pink vest.
So now, after years of being off the radar, more difficult to track down than Santa's Workshop, and a couple of questionable wardrobe choices and a few other unsolvable mysteries, Iceberg has returned, courtesy of the Collectors' Club, in a modern figure rendition for us to enjoy.
So, how's the figure? Very nicely done and most impressive, I must say.
As one would expect, the figure uses pre-existing parts. Now, I am not enough of an expert on the modern G.I. Joe line to give you a complete run-down of who was used to make Iceberg, although I recognize some of the parts. I'm sure if you look around online, you can find a complete inventory. My personal opinion is -- who cares? Part reusage is commonplace throughout the toy world. It happened in the original G.I. Joe line and it still happens today, everywhere. Just ask the Masters of the Universe. If the end result is a cool figure, I'm not going to worry overmuch about who it was assembled from.
Interestingly enough, the original head of Iceberg was modified (specifically, the neck joint) for use on this figure. I've heard that this wasn't originally supposed to be the case, and apparently it's had something of a mixed reaction among the fans, but I don't really have a problem with it. It's a perfectly good headsculpt, and at least you can be assured that it's going to look like the character.
The only slightly negative thing I can say about it is that the ears aren't especially detailed. This wasn't uncommon in the original G.I. Joe line. Ears were often just undetailed curved on the sides of the head. The modern line goes into greater detail, sculpting all of the curves and indentations that typically make up a normal human ear. Iceberg doesn't have that, and yeah, it's a little obvious, but I also don't consider it a major point of contention.
The head has nicely designed features and above-average detail, especially for the original time period. Iceberg's hair, visible on the back of his head, has a superb level of detail in it, his facial expression is straightforward and appropriately serious, his hat has a good level of detail to it, and the goggles are a nice and neatly done addition. This is really an excellent headsculpt, and I don't have the slightest problem with its return. The face has been neatly painted, complete with the whites of the eyes.
Iceberg's uniform starts off with a furry collar that extends over the shoulders. This has obviously been brought over from the Cobra Snow Serpent figure. Is it appropriate to the design? Well, more or less. The original Iceberg has a high, thick collar emerging from the top of the vest. It's not too much of a stretch to envision that it might have been furry, since the figure has some furry-like detail elsewhere on his uniform. While this Snow Serpent collar might come across as comparative overkill, it honestly looks really great on the figure, certainly cements his status as an arctic specialist, and is almost definitely something that Iceberg would want to have as part of his uniform. The collar itself is a superbly sculpted and detailed piece.
The original uniform colors are present and accounted for, although if you compare them to the original figure, they're a bit more intense. I mean, white is white, but the blue vest is a bit brighter -- and bluer -- than before. Again, I'm not complaining. It looks good, and it's not so intense that it throws off Iceberg's ability to be a good arctic specialist. The green trim isn't quite as dark as it was before, but it's a good approximation.
Wherever these body parts came from, they do a good job as an arctic uniform. The vest and arms look thick and padded. The red circle emblem with the three wavy lines is present and accounted for, but this time around, it's on Iceberg's upper left arm, not his upper right. I think the reason for this is that his upper right arm has a little pouch on the side that the original figure did not have.
Speaking of pouches, there's two of them on the front of the vest. These are a step up from the two zippers that appear on the original, which presumably access a couple of internal pouches.
The gloves are an excellent carryover from before, dark green with raised white areas on their backs. Couldn't have been a better choice. Iceberg has ridged wristbands, something the original figure did not have, but they still look cool. Maybe they're some sort of heating element. That might work better than the fur trim that the 1986 Iceberg has around his lower arms.
Iceberg has a small green holster, a separately molded piece, strapped around his chest and under his left arm. This is a good version of the one molded to the original figure. The handle to a small, non-removable pistol can be seen emerging from it.
The figure has a narrow white belt with a green buckle, and then we come to the legs. Much as before, the tops of the boots appear to be furry, and have been very nicely detailed. There are narrow green bands around the boots near their tops, below the fur trim. Iceberg now has a green strap and a knife holster molded to his upper left leg. This is something the original figure didn't have.
And I'm pretty sure I know whose legs these are. The furry trim, and especially the fringe on the right leg, is something of a giveaway. These legs were originally used for the Joe Team's favorite Native American tracker -- Spirit Iron-Knife.
How well do they work for Iceberg's legs? Not bad at all, really. Molded entirely in white, they come across as effectively arctic. The fringe is an odd detail, but if "odd uniform details" were a basis for official complaints within G.I. Joe, they'd have to fire three-fourths of the team. The Joe Team pretty well tossed out the uniform code book by 1985, when Bazooka in his red baseball shirt showed up for duty. And that's being charitable. Snake-Eyes and Scarlett weren't exactly conventional back in 1982.
The legs might be just a little narrow. They don't have the sort of "padded" look that one might expect from an arctic uniform. Then again, one could easily rationalize that cold weather insulation has been improved upon in the last twenty-seven years, and they don't need to look as thick. As far as I'm concerned -- it works, and it works well, because the end result of all these pieces being brought together is a modern-style figure that looks like Iceberg should look, and that's what the objective was.
The only other thing I might comment on is that this is a rather tall figure. Iceberg is a full 4-1/4" in height. That's pretty good-sized even for this line. At the same time, though, consistency of height has never been as crucial in the modern G.I. Joe line as it was in the original, and who's to say that Iceberg isn't a bit taller than many of his teammates? Might be an advantage, stomping through deep snow. So I can't consider it a criticism.
Iceberg comes with an abundance of accessories. Prominent among these is a snowboard, with the G.I. Joe "star" emblem on it, about 3-3/4" in length, mostly white with a black equipment pack attached to it.
Other accessories include a large white backpack with some very nice texturing sculpted to it to give it a sort of fabric feel, with dark green strap details painted, two different rifles -- an all white one and a black one with white wrappings painted on that also have a fabric texturing to them, a small silver-bladed knife with a green hilt that fits into the leg sheath (and which I recommend storing in a Ziploc bag when not in use), a black missile launcher with a white strap and a small green missile (it is not spring-loaded and the missile isn't much bigger than the knife), a black framework with a hook on it that can be secured to the backpack so that Iceberg can carry his snowboard when he's not actually using it, and a white display base with the G.I. Joe logo sculpted into it and Iceberg's name imprinted on it.
That's a lot of hardware to carry across the frozen tundra, but it's nice to see the Club provide a generous supply of accessories to these figures.
Of course, Iceberg comes with a file card. It reads as follows:
ARCTIC ASSAULT TROOPER
File Name: Nash, Clifton L.
ICEBERG grew up in hot weather, and he hated it. As soon as he was old enough to enlist, he signed up for duty in Alaska. The cold is his element - he's not happy until the mercury drops well below zero. Iceberg possesses both the knowledge and ability to endure freezing temperatures. This is not to say he's impervious to the lethal effects of hypothermia, hence his specially insulated uniform with synthetic fur. He respects the cold and uses it to his advantage.
Iceberg loves to thrash COBRA (and the mountain tops) on his snowboard. He knows everything about arctic combat and survival. Give him an assault rifle and an icicle and you'll have an igloo full of prisoners before nightfall.
"I like my food like my enemies - frozen!"
So, what's my final word? I'm very pleased with what the Club is doing with G.I. Joe. Between Convention Sets, the Fan Subscription Service, and Membership figures like Iceberg, they're doing a great job of getting some extremely impressive figures into the modern collection of characters that just wouldn't likely otherwise see the light of day. They are to be commended for this, and without question, Iceberg is a superb addition to the collection. If you're a fan of the modern G.I. Joe line, then you'll definitely want to add Iceberg to your figures.
The OFFICIAL G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB MEMBERSHIP FIGURE of ICEBERG definitely has my highest recommendation.