REVIEW: G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB EXCLUSIVE NANO-B.A.T.
Like it or not, the 80's are over, and with them, gone also are the days when we could walk into a toy store or toy department and see the better part of an aisle occupied by scads of G.I. Joe product -- right next to Transformers and Masters of the Universe, among other popular concepts of the day.
As of this writing, the G.I. Joe line of action figures in the stores consists of two distinct aspects, which have some if not exactly generous space at most retailers. First of all is the G.I. Joe Retaliation line, based on the live-action movie. This line consists of movie-based figures of the prominent characters, with other figures added to the line to expand it somewhat. Most of these additional figures and items nevertheless work quite well within the movie-based setting, although certainly are also compatible with the non-movie-based modern G.I. Joe figures.
The other line is a series of G.I. Joe figures that are modern takes on classic figures, some of the less prominent versions of popular character such as Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Cobra Commander. These figures can be found at discount retailers such as Dollar General, and they've also been reported at TJMaxx and Marshall's. Although fairly basic, they're certainly very capable figures, and interesting additions to the overall line.
But there is a third source for some extremely interesting modern G.I. Joe action figures. And that is the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club. They have started their own line of exclusive G.I. Joe action figures, through their online store and a subscription service.
The line-up features characters from literally around the world, and focuses on characters that wouldn't be likely to make it into the modern line, were it not for the efforts of the Club. Most of them are based on established characters that are known to G.I. Joe fans, but which, for one reason or another, were not chosen to be brought into the modern figure format -- until now.
American-based characters such as Topside, Dice, Big Boa, and others, join with international characters such as Quarrel, from Europe, and TNT, from South America, to provide for a truly amazing and distinctive line-up of G.I. Joe figures courtesy of the Club. There's even a character brought in from G.I. Joe Extreme! Few if any of these would likely have seen the light of day had it not been for this very special line of figures.
But there is one new face in the crowd. At least somewhat new. It's a new version of the Cobra Battle Android Trooper, or B.A.T.s. And while the Cobra B.A.T.s are certainly an established presence in the G.I. Joe universe, there's never been one quite like this before. Cobra has enhanced the technology of their Battle Android Troopers in a very interesting fashion, and the G.I. Joe team must now contend with the COBRA NANO-B.A.T.!
I've always gotten a kick out of the Battle Android Troopers, ever since their introduction in 1986, even if from a real-world standpoint, the notion of humanoid robotic soldiers was a little implausible. Still, it's amazing how technology has caught up.
The Battle Android Troopers had very different debuts between the comic book and the animated series at the time. In the comic book, the B.A.T.s were the creation of Dr. Mindbender, who was more or less "auditioning" for Cobra at the time, in the company of Destro and the Baroness. Several G.I. Joes, mostly new recruits who were being put through their paces by Lady Jaye, were captured by a group of B.A.T.s, and then hauled off to a maze-like junkyard where Dr. Mindbender tested a plant spore weapon on them as well. The plant spores backfired, but the B.A.T.s were regarded as a greater success. Mindbender joined Cobra, Lady Jaye gave full G.I. Joe status to the recruits, and the B.A.T.s would turn up every so often as one more threat from Cobra.
In the animated series, the B.A.T.s were showcased in the second-season opener, when security at G.I. Joe Headquarters had gotten a little lax. Cobra literally pulled up and disgorged a couple of busloads of B.A.T.s, something the Joe Team hadn't ever seen before. The G.I. Joes had their hands full until Sgt. Slaughter, also making his debut, showed up, and basically turned into a one-man wrecking and recycling machine, and didn't stop until all that was left of the B.A.T.s was a large pile of scrapped parts. No great surprise, General Hawk enlisted his aid on the spot to whip the team back into shape. The B.A.T.s, as in the comic, would remain a frequent threat.
The first B.A.T. figure, part of the 1986 line, was designed along the same structural lines as the other G.I. Joe figures, and yet there were some obvious aspects to it that showcased the fact that this was intended to be more machine than human. The head was rather oblong in shape, for starters. Fitting a human head into this would've been a difficult proposition at best. The visor was somewhat T-shaped, and while Cobra was certainly known for its "faceless legions" of various trooper divisions, there was something a little different about this one.
The B.A.T. was dressed in a black uniform. Setting aside the question of why it was necessary to clothe a robot, there were plenty of indicators here as to the Battle Android's mechanical nature. The uniform was short-sleeved, and the arms that emerged from the sleeves were not flesh, but rather machine gray, with all sorts of mechanical detail sculpted to their design. The legs were more cylindrical than one would expect from human legs, lacking the normal curves of musculature that can be detected even with a uniform that is not form-fitting.
But most obvious of all was the chestplate. On the original Battle Android Trooper, this was a lenticular motion piece, set inside a silver frame, that showcased some of the internal workings of the robot, and, as the effect is designed to do, appeared to shift and move depending on one's viewpoint of the toy.
Additionally, the Battle Android Trooper came with a number of interchangeable hands, which could be traded out for more specialized weaponry that was included with the figure's backpack. All of Cobra's other trooper divisions -- Vipers, Eels, Snow Serpents, Crimson Guards -- they were all human underneath their fancy uniforms. Hasbro went to great lengths to create a figure that, while it certainly worked well alongside the others, clearly was something other than they were.
The B.A.T.s certainly proved popular, and they returned in 1991. The B.A.T. II, in some respects, looked even more mechanical than its predecessor, even as it looked more streamlined. One couldn't entirely tell if the B.A.T. II was wearing a uniform, or was simply constructed and painted in the colors in which it was presented. Black still dominated, but this time, the trim was bright orange and bright green. Not exactly the most Cobra colors ever seen, but considering the time period, in which both G.I. Joe and Cobra were being given brighter color schemes, not entirely inappropriate.
As before, there were indications of the -- inhuman-ness of the Battle Android Troopers. The heads were not entirely human shaped, and clearly weren't helmets. One of the arms could be exchanged for different weapons. And once again, the B.A.T. II had a lenticular chestplate.
Right around this same time, Cobra developed a B.A.T. Commander. Named "Overkill", he was originally intended to be a third generation of Battle Android Trooper, but he proved too expensive to produce, and so only one existed. He looked quite different from the previous generations of B.A.T.s, with a gold head that had some semblance of features on it, and instead of a lenticular chestplate, his chest actually swung open to reveal a concealed weapon.
Overkill could also speak, seeing as how he was part of the Talking Battle Commanders series, thanks to a massive backpack that had several recorded phrases. Overkill never turned up in the comic books, and he didn't fare especially well in the DIC-produced second animated series, where he was played for some rather pathetic laughs.
When Cobra ventured into outer space, with their side of the Star Brigade conflict, they also developed the first specialized Battle Android Troopers. Dubbed B.A.A.T.s, with the second "A" standing for "Armored", these special Battle Androids were part of the Armor-Tech contingent, and were a good bit larger and certainly bulkier than their predecessors. Although Armor-Tech sometimes gets a mixed reaction among fans, I rather liked it, and was especially impressed with the B.A.A.T.s.
The cancellation and return of the G.I. Joe line didn't slow down Cobra's production of the B.A.T.s in the least. Rather quickly out of the gates was a special mail-order six-pack, that included three recolored B.A.T. II's, given a color scheme significantly closer to the original Battle Android Trooper, two Inferno B.A.T.s, which were very impressive B.A.T. II's molded in transparent red, and a recolored version of Overkill, rather thankfully minus the whopping big talking backpack.
With the advent of the "newsculpt" line which ran from 2002-2006, came several more Battle Android Trooper divisions. The beauty of these was that, even if the physique of G.I. Joe figures had changed somewhat, the Battle Android Troopers, being robots, could fit in anywhere. There was no rule that said they had to perfectly match human anatomy as G.I. Joe saw it.
First up were the B.A.T. v.3's, which saw several versions over the course of several years. These were rather tall and slender, even for the newsculpt scale. The lenticular chestplate was gone, but the new B.A.T.s had a removable chestplate that showed some of their internal mechanisms. The interchangeable weapon arm also remained a feature.
These were followed by the B.A.T. v.4's, somewhat better proportioned to the human figures of the time, but easily the most robotic-looking Battle Android Troopers to date, with seriously creepy faces and antennae that looked like Cobra had taken a few cues from the Insecticons from the Transformers universe. These B.A.T.s had very robotic legs as well as arms, and in a distinct upgrade, both arms could be swapped out for weapons, rather than just one. Both the B.A.T. v.3 and B.A.T. v.4 had several color schemes.
Finally, there was a B.A.T. six-pack, which offered recolored versions of the v.3 and v.4 B.A.T.s, a recolored version of a character known as Overkill, who this time around was a cyborg, not just an android, and three B.A.T. v.5's, an all-new figure that was even more robotic in appearance than the previous model, and had many more interchangeable parts.
There was even a 12" Battle Android Trooper, most closely resembling the B.A.T. v.3 design. Rather hilariously, Hasbro wanted to give this figure at least some degree of a cloth uniform, which the other 12" G.I. Joe figures all had at the time, and so the 12" B.A.T. ended up with the equivalent of spandex biker shorts. Apart from this rather unintentionally amusing feature, it was an excellent figure.
The B.A.T.s even found their way into the Sigma 6 line, with a specialized Ninja B.A.T., as well as a Sky B.A.T. that more more than a passing resemblance to the B.A.T. v.5, size notwithstanding. This was pretty well verified some years later when, as part of its offerings at one of their Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Conventions, the Club presented a 3-3/4" Sky-B.A.T., that was a recolored B.A.T. v.5.
This was not the only Battle Android Trooper offered by the Club at one of their Conventions. In one of their boxed sets, a group of B.A.T.s that were dedicated to the Headhunters were produced. These remarkable B.A.T.s actually used parts from all three of the original-style Battle Android Troopers -- the first B.A.T., the B.A.T. II, and Overkill, to create a remarkable new Battle Android Trooper. They even had specialized lenticular chestplates!
With the advent of the modern G.I. Joe line, it was inevitable that the Battle Android Troopers would put in an appearance, and indeed they have. The modern-style Battle Android Trooper is clearly based on the original Battle Android Trooper, and is one of the more effective carryovers from original to modern style. The figure lacks the lenticular chestplate, but this is rather nicely compensated for with fully sculpted internal workings with a transparent "window" put into place over this area.
There have been several versions of this Battle Android Trooper, including some designed to look much like the original, in one instance using the slightly different color scheme from the animated series. There was also a recolored one released with a set based on the short-lived Resolute series, and a specialized Jungle B.A.T. that was rather hard to find. You'd think that a B.A.T. designed to camouflage himself in the jungle wouldn't be so effective at hiding in department stores...
Over 25 years of Battle Android history, bringing us around to the newest addition to their mechanical ranks, the NANO-B.A.T.
So, how's the figure? Absolutely outstanding, but first off, I want to discuss the packaging just a bit.
When Hasbro brought out the 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe figures, which introduced the current figure design style, they re-created the original package card design, as well. This featured a card with a black background, and a painted orange, yellow, and white explosion effect, taking up a significant portion of the card, with a nicely painted illustration of the character whose figure was mounted on the card, in an appropriate action pose. Above all of this was the now-legendary G.I. Joe logo in basic red, white, and blue.
Speaking as a one-time professional graphic artist, the design was sheer genius. The entire design was one of the most eye-catching you could ask for. The bold logo stood out well against the black, and the explosion effect with the impressively painted character coming out of it was similarly attention-getting. And right there, along one side of the card, was the figure itself, neatly mounted and ready for inspection while not detracting from the artwork.
There have been any number of package designs for G.I. Joe since. Some have worked better than others. Some have featured some truly outstanding artwork. I've seen some painted illustrations that almost looked photographic in detail and precision. But whenever I see one of those original cards, I can't help but think -- wow, they got it right the first time.
They also got it right when they brought it back for a while during the 25th Anniversary line, ultimately only changing it when they needed a new package design for the first live-action movie. And the Club has gotten it right, because they're using that design now for their exclusive offerings.
If you could travel back in time, you could hang this NANO-B.A.T. on any 1980's display of G.I. Joe figures, and he'd just about fit right in. Somebody might wonder about the Club logo on the upper right corner, or the "Adult Collectible" working on the upper left, and they wouldn't have the slightest idea what a Web Site like "gijoeclub.com" was, but for the most part, it'd work.
I'm not sure who did the package illustration, but seeing as how this is really a new version of the B.A.T., that looks very different and has an entirely different color scheme than any previous B.A.T., whoever did do the package illustration did an impressive job matching the original style.
As to the figure, it's truly amazing. Of course, it largely uses the same body molds as the standard modern-style B.A.T., so from a basic structural standpoint, it looks like the modern-style B.A.T., which is designed to look like a modern take on the original B.A.T. But given the radically different color scheme, the resemblance ends there.
The Nano-B.A.T. has a medium gray head with a transparent green faceplate. That the head was obviously molded in the transparent green, and then the "helmet" painted gray, gives the transparent green faceplate an interesting sense of depth. Want to have some fun? Pop the head off, find the most narrow-beam flashlight you can, and shine it up the neck socket and watch the Nano-B.A.T.'s head light up.
The Nano-B.A.T. is wearing a medium-gray uniform. As with the basic color of the head, this is a decided departure from the usual black. Interestingly, the uniform has black trim, instead of the usual yellow-orange. Given that a standard B.A.T. has a black uniform, the end result of using that color for the trim makes for a nice contrast in design. The frame around the chestplate, the shoulder details, the strap with the grenades near the left arm, the belt, and boots, are all black.
There's a bit of silver trim, as well. The grenades, the belt buckle, the ridged panels on the tops of the boots, and the straps and details on the upper right leg, are all silver.
Curiously, the upper legs of the Nano-B.A.T. are not the same as the standard Battle Android Trooper. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure who's legs they are. I'm not enough of an expert on the modern-style G.I. Joe figures to recognize that offhand. However, they work abundantly well here on this Battle Android Trooper, especially the detailing on the upper right leg, which has a series of three ridged straps with a holster and some very high-tech-looking device on the front of the leg. It looks so robotic that I didn't catch that it wasn't a B.A.T. leg until I compared the figure to one of the other modern-style B.A.T.s.
The Nano-B.A.T.'s uniform sleeves are short, with a red Cobra emblem properly placed on the upper left shoulder, and the android's lower arms are transparent green, with a very slight brushing of silver over them. It certainly sets the Nano-B.A.T. apart from any previous Battle Android Trooper, and I'll also admit that I've always been a sucker for toys with colored transparent details like this. As for why the Nano-B.A.T. has such a coloration, well, you'll have to wait until I get to his file card.
The Nano-B.A.T. has interchangeable accessories for his arms -- he wouldn't really be a B.A.T. If he didn't -- and these are also transparent green in color, and can be secured to his backpack. He also comes with a mean-looking rifle, black in color, with a jagged silver knife at the end of it, and a long gray staff with some sort of pronged, semi-circular, something-or-other at one end. I'm not even sure what to call this, but I don't think I'd want to have a weaponized robot waving one in my direction, whatever it is.
The Nano-B.A.T. Also comes with an interchangeable head and faceplate. These are "battle damaged" pieces. The battle-damaged head looks to have been half-shot away, revealing exposed mechanisms within, most notably one of his "eyes", whereas the chestplate has some cracks and bullet-holes in it.
I've never been fond of "battle damage", myself, so I consider it a little odd that the figure was packaged in this format, and was even the basis for the package illustration. Needless to say, I swapped these parts out for their intact versions as quickly as possible. Admittedly, your preference will vary.
However, swapping out the chestplate, something I've never had to do before, did finally answer the question for me as to how it was attached in the first place. Since this isn't a lenticular chestplate, but rather a "window" over actual sculpted internal details, one need take note of the fact that two of those internal details seem to have small circles sculpted into them. While seemingly only decorative, these are in fact peg holes for the window panel to attach to. I have to give a lot of credit to Hasbro for the cleverness of that bit of design. I'd never even caught it until now.
For the Nano-B.A.T., the window panels are the same bright transparent green as some other portions of the android, and really make the internal workings of the Nano-B.A.T. seem especially illuminated.
But why this bright, almost glowing, transparent green? For that, we need to turn to the back of the package card, and read the very well-written file card. I am certainly pleased that the Club has maintained both the look and the extensive detail of the classic G.I. Joe file cards for these special figures. It's something I really miss on other G.I. Joe products when it doesn't turn up. Now, let's have a look at the file card for the Nano-B.A.T.:
COBRA BATTLE ANDROID TROOPER
Primary Function: Elimination of G.I. Joe
B.A.T.s (Battle Android Troopers) are totally artificial robotic soldiers with extremely primitive logic circuits and very sophisticated targeting systems. They can absorb enormous amounts of battle damage and still continue their missions as long as their trigger finger circuits and weapon systems are intact. B.A.T.s are usually deployed from low flying aircraft without the use of parachutes. This delivery system is quite demoralizing to opposing troops who happen to witness it and then actually survive the impending onslaught.
A consignment of B.A.T.s were taken to a secret factory in the United Kingdom by Hotwire. The Cobra mechanic infused all the units with Nanomite technology, which operates on a molecular scale to improve its host equipment while destroying or repurposing enemy materials. He believes that using the microscopic machines will provide instantaneous repair of battle damaged B.A.T.s during combat, while greatly adding to the troopers' destructive capabilities. These Nanomite-enhanced troopers emit an eerie green glow and have an adverse environmental impact on everything they touch.
From Hotwire's journals: "Nanomite technology is a truly amazing enhancement. First they glow and then they blow up G.I. Joe!"
A few details -- "Nanomite" is obviously the Cobra name for nanite technology, which has been speculated about in any number of science-fiction formats, with no small amount of plausibility. Hotwire is a Club-created character, who turned up as a figure a few years ago, and has been used in the Club-produced comics and stories that appear at the Conventions, as well as in the monthly Club Magazine, which has also featured the Nano-B.A.T.s.
The Nano-B.A.T.'s details are superbly well painted, especially the helmet and the internal workings on the chestplate, but really, I see no paint flaws on this figure whatsoever. And of course, he's very well articulated. The Nano-B.A.T. is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, including a swivel, lower arm swivel (more or less the wrist), mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles.
So, what's my final word? As I said at the top of this review, the 80's are gone. And few of the mega-popular action figure lines that enjoyed massive shelf space at that time are what they used to be. I think we should be thankful that some of them are around at all.
I also think we should be thankful that there's a fine group like the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club, doing its best to maintain and expand the current G.I. Joe line, bringing us characters that otherwise might not get much of a chance in the modern G.I. Joe line, as well as introducing immensely cool new characters such as this Nano-B.A.T. I'm truly delighted to have him, and I am certain that if you're any sort of fan of G.I. Joe, you'll be pleased to bring him into your collection, as well.
The G.I. JOE COLLECTORS CLUB EXCLUSIVE figure of the COBRA NANO-B.A.T. most definitely has my highest recommendation!