The story contained in Issue #44 of the original G.I. Joe comic is a weird one. It starts off with Lady Jaye putting a number of new probationary Joes through their paces on an obstacle course. These new Joes included Bazooka, Airtight, Crankcase, and Heavy Metal. They're barely finished when they're attacked by strange humanoid robots wearing gas cannisters, and when they awaken, they're in a maze that's been built out of a scrapyard, and are set upon by giant mutant plants.
This all turned out to be the scheme of Cobra. Destro and the Baroness are putting a new recruit of their own through his paces, a mad scientist type we would come to know as Dr. Mindbender, even though through much of the comic book he is referred to as Dr. Brainwave. The robots that attacked the Joes are the first appearance ever of the popular Cobra Battle Android Troopers, or B.A.T.s. The mutant plants, thankfully, would never be heard from again.
One gets the distinct impression that this is one of those comic stories that Hasbro insisted upon. It was a stand-alone story, not part of any ongoing storyline in the comic at the time. It introduced a large amount of new characters, many more than was usual for the title, and certainly, giant mutant plants were hardly Larry Hama's normal style for the book, which he tried to keep as realistic as the concept allowed. The "Dr. Brainwave" references also seem to indicate that the characters introduced were still a work in progress when the comic book was prepared, and that a final name, at least for that individual, hadn't been entirely determined.
Interestingly, the figure set that this comic book is based on is just as peculiar. It features Lady Jaye and two gas-masked Cobra Troopers. Huh? Gas-masked Cobra Troopers? You didn't say anything about any gas-masked Cobra Troopers before.
That's right. I didn't. Because they appear in all of ONE PANEL in the entire story. They're sent out to round up the Joes after they've been gassed early in the story. Since the B.A.T.s blew up delivering the knockout gas, they couldn't do it, and I don't see Destro and the Baroness doing the sort of grunt-work of lugging Joes into the back to a vehicle. So - we needed some grunts.
But why not include B.A.T.s in the set? Good question. But it may very well be that only half of the original B.A.T. molds remain. They've seen use in recent years as replacement legs for the original 1986 Vipers. As to where the rest of the B.A.T. molds went, that's anybody's guess, but clearly Hasbro couldn't be bothered with the expense of duplicating them, and since they had the molds for a Cobra Trooper, it wasn't that big a deal to do a new headsculpt with the gas mask.
It's a cheap way out, certainly, but really, this set exists for one primary reason, and it's not gas-masked Cobra Troopers, and it wouldn't even have been B.A.T.s. It was to give the fans a Lady Jaye figure in this series, and one not wearing a cap.
Lady Jaye has been one of the most popular female characters in the G.I. Joe universe. Granted, there haven't been that many to begin with, but even so, Lady Jaye is arguably the most popular right after Scarlett and the Baroness.
Her figure was first released in 1985, and really only ever saw a second release in 1997, which was just a recolored version of the original.
Here's the thing - both versions were wearing a cap, something Lady Jaye did only very, very infrequently in either the comic book or the animated series. The cap was molded to the head and could not be removed.
To what degree this new version of Lady Jaye was meant to appease the collectors and give them something they've wanted for a great many years, I really don't know. Hasbro generally doesn't think in those terms. And it should also be noted that in the course of this story in the comic book, Lady Jaye is riding a motorcycle and wearing a colorful red-white- and-blue motorcycle helmet. The figure comes with this helmet. She couldn't very well wear that and the cap, so the cap logically had to be dropped.
The body is the same design as the original Lady Jaye, although technically it's a remake that was first used for the Oktober Guard figure Daina in 2004, and the head sculpt is excellent. It looks very much like Lady Jaye sans cap should look, so no doubt this set will be very popular with fans and collectors, the Cobra Troopers be hanged (although I'm sure some army-builder types will want them).
It's interesting that this set is part of the same "wave" as the Oktober Guard set that includes Lt. Gorky, seeing as how in that story, Gorky had a tendency to flirt with Lady Jaye, much to the consternation of Flint, as well as the rest of Gorky's Oktober Guard teammates. Lady Jaye and Flint maintained something of a romance, in both the comic book and the animated series, one of the few common "minor" points that both shared. Years later, in the Devil's Due comic, Flint and Lady Jaye were actually married, until the Red Shadows killed Lady Jaye, much to the extreme annoyance and downright outrage of Joe fans all over.
About my only complaints figurewise are that somebody gave Lady Jaye a very odd color of "lipstick" - it's sort of brown when perhaps a shade of dark pink would've been more appropriate. She's also got a pretty high forehead on one side, but it's not bad. As for the headsculpts for the gas-masked Cobra Troopers, which technically used the bodies of Cobra Officers - they're hideous. They're overly large, and look like somebody hit the "Approved" button on the sculpts before they should've. The helmets are nowhere near as smooth as they should be. The gas masks are similarly rough, and are a separate piece glued into place.
Lady Jaye's motorcycle helmet is a cool piece, even if it doesn't really fit all that well. I believe it's an entirely new helmet, and they did a nice job putting the red and white stripes and white star against the blue background on it, as reflected by the helmet the character is wearing in the comic book.
The only complaint I've heard about the helmet is the fact that they could do this for Lady Jaye, but not give a helmet to Dragonsky in the Oktober Guard set. Perhaps not an illegitimate complaint.
The file cards read as follows:
File Name: Hart-Burnett, Allision R.
Primary Military Specialty: Counterintelligence
Secondary Military Specialty: Armament Repair
Birthplace: Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
A gifted linguist and covert operations expert, Lady Jaye has participated in or led many undercover missions for the G.I. Joe Team. With advanced skills in cryptologic linguistics, signals intelligence and electronic interception analysis, this graduate of Bryn Mawr and Trinity College has a tough, no-nonsense approach. She prefers to be in the middle of the action where her quick thinking and left hook can be out to good use. When she's not on missions or analyzing intercepted communications and aerial photos to spot Cobra activity, she "relaxes" by repairing the weapons on tanks and fighting vehicles. She is qualified in electronic and mechanical repair and keeps the mechanisms in battle-ready condition. Her favorite part is testing the equipment once she's repaired it, using live ammunition fired at confiscated Cobra vehicles.
"Covert ops is all about attention to detail. I find the one little detail that Cobra overlooked, and use it to blow their whole operation wide open.
COBRA Infantry Forces
The Cobra Trooper infantry forces are the most basic, bottom-of-the- barrel soldiers in the Cobra regime. They have to work their way up to become Cobra VIPER forces. They are thugs, mercenaries, pirates, and assorted lowlifes who are recruited from all over the world. They are given the most basic level of training, which amounts to simply organizing a handful of them into a reasonably cohesive group, giving them the most basic of uniforms, handing them equipment, and telling them to go out and destroy, sabotage, and wreak havoc. The Cobra Trooper divisions are not specialized, but instead are sent in as basic infantry ground forces. Their key advantage s are their pure nastiness and sheer numbers.
"We're the grunts of the Cobra organization, the guys who pour into the field and fight for all we're worth, overpowering the enemy with might, meanness, and machine guns."
Interesting detail about the package back for this set. Since only two file cards were really needed, that left space at the bottom to give a nice plug to all of the current comic-based 3-packs, including the ones for issues #9, #26, #44, #74, #75, #76, #101, and that awful newsculpt one based on #16 of the Devil's Due comics. Still, apart from that, a nice plug for these other sets.
So, do I recommend Set #44? While not as impressive as its assortment counterpart, the Oktober Guard set based on #101, yes, I do. The Lady Jaye figure is excellent. The Cobra Troopers are, in my opinion, a little pointless, and their headsculpts not very good, but I've seen worse, and I have little doubt that they'll be popular with quite a few collectors, including the usual "army-builders".
So if you get that chance, you should definitely grab Set #44, hopefully at the same time you're picking up Set #101. They're both excellent additions to the world of G.I.JOE!