REVIEW: G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB EXCLUSIVE QUARREL
One of my all-time favorite G.I. Joe figures in my collection didn't even originate in the United States. In fact, technically, she's not a G.I. Joe figure. She's from a European group known as Action Force. Her name is QUARREL, and now, she's been added to the collection of G.I. Joe figures being offered exclusively by the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club.
When I first started collecting the Real American Hero, back in 1982, I was completely unaware of the fact that the toys were being marketed through various means in the ensuing years all around the globe. It would take several international pen-pals, a number of publications, and a few of the early G.I. Joe Conventions before I realized the global scope of G.I. Joe -- or whatever it might have been called in one country or another. That, and a trip to London, England, in 1992.
My first real evidence that G.I. Joe had a greater reach then I realized was when I started corresponding with a fellow action figure collector in England. He revealed at one point that England had just gotten the Tiger Force special team, and mentioned the members. And there were two names, Outback and Psyche-Out, who were categorically not part of the American Tiger Force Team. I asked him if he would be willing to send me these figures, and he did so. The following year, he sent me the other European-exclusive Tiger Force figures, including such luminaries as Hit & Run, Tunnel Rat, Blizzard, and Sneak Peek.
But these were current figures. What I didn't know, but would soon learn, was that G.I. Joe in England had initially gone by the name Action Force. This was due to two reasons, for the most part. First of all, "G.I. Joe" is a distinctly American term, and didn't really have the same impact overseas. Secondly, there had been a 12" figure in England, in years past, known as "Action Man". Much as the G.I. Joe team was the successor to the original 12" G.I. Joe, so Action Force was the successor to Action Man.
The initial Action Force figures bore little resemblance to their American cousins. Although they were 3-3/4" in height, their articulation was very limited, and their basic structural design was closer to the Star Wars figures of the era, poseable at the head, arms, and legs. There were some amazing vehicles, the likes of which were never seen in the United States, and as these vehicles are fully compatible with the Real American Hero, they remain highly popular to this day.
Action Force was divided into a number of distinct teams -- Q Force, Z Force (pronounced "Zed-Force"), Space Force, SAS Force, and so forth. Their enemy, initially, was not Cobra, but a similarly evil band of potential world conquerors known as the Red Shadows.
Eventually, G.I. Joe type figures were brought into the line. These were mostly recolors of existing G.I. Joe figures, given different names and specialties, Need it be said that these are also extremely popular among fans and collectors. However, the name Action Force still held sway, as did the various teams within Action Force, and the Red Shadows enemy group.
Over time, the Red Shadows gave way to Cobra, and eventually even the G.I. Joe name was brought in. Occasional figures, such as the Tiger Force group, still provided some distinct figures unlike their American counterparts, but the line became increasingly Americanized over the years.
In 2010, the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club created a Convention Set that featured the Red Shadows, including Red Shadows figures that had previously existed only in the "pre-Joe" format in the original Action Force line. In 2013, Larry Hama even introduced the Red Shadows into IDW's Real American Hero comic book for the first time. From the continuity of the Club's G.I. Joe adventures, the European group is still operative, known as the Special Action Force, a sort of combination of Action Force, and the British SAS, which did have a contingent within the original Action Force.
Which brings me to my trip to England in 1992. Quite by coincidence while I was there, there happened to be a toy/movie/sci-fi/comic/couple'a other things convention. Well, of course we were going to attend. My friend in England had shown me images of some of the earlier Action Force product, rather small pictures of large groups of figures and vehicles, but enough to certainly garner my interest, and I decided to keep an eye out for any of it at this convention.
The convention was massive, with a wide range of merchandise available through literally hundreds of dealers. And there on one table was the original Quarrel! The seller only wanted one pound for her, a definite bargain. The figure needed a bit of cleaning and replacement screws, but that was nothing I couldn't manage. I still have that original Quarrel figure, and she's been a personal favorite in my collection.
Female characters are scarce in any incarnation of G.I. Joe, which arguably makes Quarrel that much scarcer. She's a recoloration of SCARLETT, but instead of having red hair, and a beige and grey uniform, Quarrel had blonde hair, and an olive green and black uniform. She looked quite different from Scarlett.
That same year, at one of the early G.I. Joe Conventions, Hasbro was selling a number of international G.I. Joe figures, in little plastic bags. Quarrel was among these, identified at the Convention as "Undercover Scarlett". The supply, need it be said, didn't last long. Unlike some countries' G.I. Joe product, the European G.I. Joe figures were of precisely the same excellent quality as their American counterparts, so Quarrel, and the rest of her fellow European soldiers, can readily stand alongside the G.I. Joe team and fit right in.
Fast forward to the present day. The modern G.I. Joe figures are a different design than their predecessors, and one has to say that the line's presence in the toy stores isn't quite what it used to be. The 80's are over, not to put too fine a point on it.
When G.I. Joe changed its figure format for its 25th Anniversary, Hasbro nevertheless re-created the original package design, with painted illustrations of the characters on the card, with an explosive-looking background, and of course, a full character file card on the back. The current G.I. Joe figures in the stores, based on the sequel live-action movie "G.I. Joe: Retaliation", do not use this package design, nor do the figures have file cards. But this classic packaging style can still be found on a very select group of modern-style G.I. Joe figures, which features a line-up of characters that should certainly be welcome in any G.I. Joe collection, but which likely would not have seen the light of day through conventional means.
This is a very specific line of G.I. Joe figures produced and offered through the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club, and one of the "must-haves", as far as I was concerned, was the figure of QUARREL! I mean, really, I have the original. I'd even gotten the original IN ENGLAND. How could I not add her modern-style counterpart to my collection?
The package artwork is outstanding. The Club has done a great job duplicating the original style of Quarrel, up against the explosive background, with the G.I. Joe logo overhead. That's something that not even the original Quarrel got. The early Action Force packaging in England was radically different from the G.I. Joe packaging, and didn't use painted illustrations.
So, how's the figure? Really superb. The color scheme is right on the money. Quarrel has blonde hair, and is wearing a black uniform and olive green sleeves, leggings, and collar. She also has black gloves and boots. In keeping with her Z Force background, there's a certain amount of red trim on the uniform, including the ridged shoulder pad, the belt, and a strap with a knife sheath on the upper right leg. The throwing stars on her left glove have also been painted red.
There's some impressive additional detail, as well. The belt buckle is painted silver, as is a small grenade on the front of her uniform near the left shoulder. The handle of the knife in the leg sheath has been painted black. The stylized "Z" of Z Force has been neatly imprinted in red, with a black outline, on her upper right arm.
And there is a new detail, that the original Quarrel did not have. A British flag, the Union Jack, has been imprinted with great precision on her upper left arm. I am especially impressed with this particular detail. It's certainly appropriate to the character, and really looks great. One of these days I'd love to know how toy companies do this sort of thing, and I've certainly seen it on a wide range of action figures over the years.
The body, rather obviously, is the same as that of the modern-style Scarlett figure, that was produced during the 25th Anniversary line, to resemble as closely as possible the original Scarlett. This is entirely appropriate, of course.
The headsculpt also comes from a modern-style Scarlett figure, but not the initial one. Rather, it's brought over from a slightly later modern-style Scarlett figure that was produced during the 25th Anniversary series line, and here we have to get into yet another foreign edition of Scarlett.
Quarrel wasn't the only Scarlett recoloration. There was another, out of South America. In that country, Scarlett was renamed Glenda, and although she had Quarrel's blonde hair, her uniform featured blue sleeves and leggings, silver gloves and boots, and a chrome silver main body! About the only negative thing I can say about this figure is that she used the 1982 molds, and so does not have the swivel-arm feature that was introduced in 1983. I do not have an original Glenda figure. Especially in light of the easily-damaged chrome, she's even scarcer to find, at least in any sort of reasonable condition, than Quarrel.
During the course of the 25th Anniversary offerings, Hasbro produced a Scarlett figure that was more or less wearing Glenda's uniform. They didn't give Scarlett blonde hair, nor did they chrome her uniform, but it is a light gray and blue uniform. Although packaged as a "Counter Intelligence" specialist, which is how Scarlett's specialty has generally been billed, she was outfitted with additional equipment to also take on the responsibilities of a helicopter pilot. Moreover, her file card gave her a secondary alias of "Glenda, Jane Mulligan".
Since the figure needed to be able to wear a helmet, the headsculpt for this particular Scarlett figure featured hair that was tied up in the back, as opposed to the long ponytail that we had gotten used to seeing Scarlett wearing. And here we come around again to the original line, because the first Scarlett figure in 1982 didn't have a ponytail -- it was something that was added by the animated series, as well as the comic book. As such, neither the original figures of Quarrel or Glenda had ponytails.
Obviously, the decision was made, again, appropriately I believe, to keep the modern Quarrel's hair looking short, or at least tied off in the back -- hence the use of the Scarlett head from the "Glenda-ish" figure that also served as a helicopter pilot.
There are a few other differences in the headsculpt. Quarrel does not have the skin on her face painted. This, as far as I'm concerned, is an improvement. I've never thought it was necessary to mold a head in flesh-colored plastic, and then paint it the same color. It's not only pointless, but all it would take is a slight paint glitch to ruin the head.
Obviously, the hair is blonde, not red. The eyes have the same level of considerable detail as the original Scarlett head, including eyebrows, eyelashes in a line over the eyes, the whites of the eyes, irises, and pupils. It's some very impressive paint detailing. But there are color difference. Quarrel has light brown eyebrows and eyelashes, as opposed to the red eyebrows and black eyelashes of Scarlett. Also, Quarrel has blue irises, rather than Scarlett's green.
The most notable new detail is the fact that Quarrel has a little bit of pink lipstick. This is something that not only neither the original Scarlett nor Quarrel had, but neither did the modern Scarlett whose head was used for Quarrel. Logically, this required a new paint stencil to be made. But honestly, I'm glad it was. It's an improvement.
Quarrel comes with a nice array of accessories, mostly molded in a gun metal gray. These include a rifle, a pistol, a two-part crossbow, and a battle stand with the G.I. Joe logo sculpted into it and her name imprinted on it. She also has an olive green backpack, and, carried over from the Scarlett figure, an olive green helmet with a silver visor.
On the front of her package, Quarrel's specialty is listed as "Undercover Operations". This is a nice way of acknowledging the Quarrels that were sold as "Undercover Scarletts" at that Convention years ago. Her complete file card reads as follows:
File Name: Pulver, Hedda
Quarrel is the daughter of a Swiss diplomat who has too bust to spend any time with her while she was growing up. To gain his admiration, she spent her early years trainingand excelling in martial arts, and eventually became well known as an all-around sportswoman. Although she was a top ranking competitor in the annual British Grand Prix Motorcycle Championships, she sought even more adventure and joined the S.A.F. (Special Action Force). Their Z Force infantry, armor, and artillery unit gave her new challenges as well as unlimited access to high speed vehicles. She graduated at the top of her class in undercover ops school and advanced unarmed combat school. Although normally passive, she has the reflexes to explode into violent action at any moment. Her signature weapons include a modified crossbow, throwing stars (shurikens), and Chinese butterfly knives.
Quarrel is a daredevil on any motorcycle in the Z Force motor pool and always finds a way to use that to her advantage. She had been assigned a mission to investigate the reports of an eerie glow emanating from a closed factory, where unusual industrial manufacturing can be heard throughout the night.
"I'll drive anything that moves, but I'll outride anyone on a motorcycle."
It's a great file card, and I like the international origin of the character. The multiple motorcycle references are cool, in that the original Quarrel figure was sold with a slightly recolored version of the G.I. Joe RAM Motorcycle in the original Action Force line. A couple of years back, the Club offered a new Z Force Motorcycle as part of their Convention offerings, so if you can track it down, you can give your Quarrel a new set of wheels.
The reference to the "eerie glow" is doubtless meant to refer to the mysterious Nano-B.A.T.s, another very cool Club Exclusive figure.
Of course, Quarrel is superbly articulated, fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), glove tops (for wrists), mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles (including a rotation).
So, what's my final word? The original Quarrel figure has been one of the favorite pieces in my G.I. Joe collection for many years now, and will certainly continue to be. I am truly pleased that this very cool character has been brought into the modern G.I. Joe collection, through the Club's exclusive offerings, and they've done a really outstanding job with her. The Club's Quarrel figure is exactly what she should be -- using the Scarlett parts to create a dynamically different-looking character, and one with a good bit of history to knowledgeable G.I. Joe fans. And the package design and artwork finally give Quarrel the artistic connection, and file card information, that she's always deserved. If you're a longtime fan of G.I. Joe, especially on a global level, and enjoy the modern-style figures, you will certainly want to add Quarrel to your collection.
The G.I. JOE COLLECTORS' CLUB EXCLUSIVE figure if QUARREL most definitely has my highest recommendation! YO JOE! Or, perhaps the European battle-cry would be more appropriate -- "Full Force!"