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REVIEW: G.I.JOE TIGER FORCE
by Thomas Wheeler

 

For those who know their G.I.Joe 3-3/4" history, there's something about the name TIGER FORCE that seems to get a lot of notice. Certainly this particular special team within the G.I.Joe ranks has an interesting history.

Tiger Force was originally introduced in 1988. The figures were all repaints of existing figures, although not the same repaints as originally advertised in a Hasbro product catalog. More on that later. The figures had dynamic "tiger stripe" uniforms, and there was a series of vehicles available, that all had a common "tiger" color scheme. Some of the vehicles were from G.I.Joe, a few were former Cobra vehicles. Certainly the most popular was the Tiger Rat, recolored from the Cobra Rattler fighter jet.

Tiger Force also had an international aspect to it, as well. Six characters were indoctrinated into Tiger Force In Europe that were never part of Tiger Force in the United States. The first two were Outback and Psyche-Out, both dramatically recolored from their original versions. The second year saw the additions of Hit & Run, Sneak Peek, Blizzard, and Tunnel Rat to the team.

South America added a few new members to Tiger Force, as well, including a recolored 1985 Dusty, who was part of the North American team, but also Shipwreck and Airtight, who, as with the British figures, had never been part of Tiger Force in the States. Please don't ask me to spell out their "native" names. I don't recall them. The last known Tiger Force figure of any distinction came out of the Orient. Although listed as "Flint", the figure actually is a Lt. Falcon head atop a 1991 Dusty body, so most people tend to call him the Tiger Force Lt. Falcon. And there's already an American Tiger Force Flint.

With all of that history, it's perhaps not too surprising that Tiger Force has made a return for the 21st century. A special boxed set of five Tiger Force figures, none of whom were ever members of Tiger Force in any country previously, has been released as a Toys "R" Us exclusive (and can also be found online at Amazon.Com).

All five are, thankfully, classic-style 3-3/4" G.I.Joes. The boxed set is nicely designed, and makes use of the original Tiger Force logo, as well as a logo to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 3-3/4" G.I.Joes, which was 2002. There are well-written and nicely illustrated file cards on the back of the package.

So, how are the figures? VERY cool. The team includes:

SGT. STALKER - Here's the only one that falls a little short in the entire assortment. The Stalker used is the one from the Talking Battle Commanders line in 1991, which wouldn't be a problem if that series hadn't featured ATTACHED backpacks, and without it, the figure has this very weird flat area on his back. Same thing happens every time they use the General Hawk from the same series. It's not that big a deal, I suppose, but it looks a little strange. And the expression on Stalker's face -- I suppose it's meant to look mean, but it looks more like he's trying to do an impression of Batman's enemy Two-Face. The uniform colors are cool enough, though, with a black shirt, orange tiger pants, and dark blue trim.

BIG BRAWLER - Intended somewhat as an Outback replacement, I suspect, given the file card illustration, but the end result is actually a very cool and rather unique figure, using the 1991 Low-Light head and the Salvo body. Good choices. The figure has rather intense red hair, a dark yellow tiger shirt with the word "BRAWLER" spelled out on it (much as Outback generally had "SURVIVAL" on his -- I think it's even the same type font and the file card illustration does say "Survival"), and green/grey camouflage trousers. The tiger pattern carries over from the back of the shirt to the front and is certainly distinctive. As I said, the result here of combining parts from two different figures and giving them all a new color scheme is a rather unique figure.

DIAL-TONE - Derived entirely from the original Dial-Tone, and with a uniform that is somewhat reminiscent of the color schemes of a couple of the European Tiger Force figures. Hit & Run, especially, had a fair amount of blue in his uniform. That wasn't a color that turned up in the American Tiger Force -- until now. Dial-Tone has a blue shirt, black trousers, and orange tiger-pattern vest, knee-pads, and boots. It's also worth noting that the tiger aspects of both Dial-Tone's and Stalker's uniforms are much more "orange" than the more "yellow-orange" used on the original Tiger Force. This deeper "orange" was also used for some members of the European team. And Hasbro also remembered Dial-Tone's mustache. They forgot it back in 2000.

AGENT JINX - It's interesting that the color scheme for this figure as shown on the file card used an orange uniform with black stripes. Personally, I think the figure's color scheme is an improvement. The uniform is green with orange stripes. Now, this may not seem especially tiger-like, but I kept looking at Jinx and thinking, "Where have I seen this color pattern before?" I knew it hadn't been used on Tiger Force before, but it still looked familiar. Then I got out my Mattel Masters of the Universe "Battle Cat" figure. This big kitty is a dark green tiger with orange stripes. How close a match is it? Battle Cat's green is barely half a shade darker than Jinx, and the stripes could've come out of the same jar of paint. I don't know if it was intentional, but I'm fairly convinced someone at Hasbro is having a little fun with Mattel in a way that's not too obvious. It's not a connection one would normally think of. In any event, Agent Jinx is a very cool and distinctive figure, and decidedly different from her original red-uniformed version, and different from the second time these molds were used, for a Cobra character in 1998 named Vypra, whose uniform was blue-and-black camouflage.

WRECKAGE - Here's where things get interesting. Wreckage, a name derived from the late-and-not-in-the-least-bit-lamented G.I.Joe Extreme line (I'll give you a few seconds to go spit and get the taste of that name out of your mouth), is a recolored Firefly. The color scheme is also FAIRLY close to what would've been the color scheme for one of those Tiger Force members that turned up in a Hasbro product catalog, but which never happened. One of the original members of Tiger Force would've been a recolored Firefly named Sabretooth. But he never came out, and it's unlikely that Marvel Comics would appreciate Hasbro using the name of one of their better-known mutant characters at this point. However, Wreckage is not a precise duplication of Sabretooth, even though the file card colors ARE. The figure has a black uniform with yellow stripes, orange trim, brown boots, and a light tan ski-mask. Sabretooth, had he been made, would've had a dark green uniform with yellow stripes, orange trim, and brown boots and ski-mask. Either way, it's a very cool figure, possibly the best of the set, and is listed as a "First Edition Figure" on the box.

I'd also like to comment on the attention to paint details. Belt buckles, grenade pins, shoulder harness buckles, are all carefully painted on these figures. The one and only deficiency I've heard anyone mention is that the ammo belts on Big Brawler's legs should have been painted, and perhaps they should've been. But overall, the paint detailing on these figures is well above expectations and very nicely done.

I have to say this -- somebody did his homework on Tiger Force with this set. The use of the darker orange, in a sense uniting the American and European Tiger Force Teams. Dial-Tone's uniform being even closer to European colors. Big Brawler being not too far removed from the European Tiger Force Outback. And Wreckage very clearly being a nod to the intended Tiger Force Sabretooth. And I'm just as glad that he's NOT an exact match, since years ago I customized a Firefly into Sabretooth. It's one of my best customs, it was certainly one of the more complex ones (painting all those stripes by hand), and I'm just as glad that my custom figure wasn't negated by Wreckage. I also know I'm not the only one by a longshot who's made this custom, either. All of these are indicative of the fact what whoever supervised the design of this boxed set either knew the history of Tiger Force VERY well, or found someone who did.

It's also worth mentioning that Big Brawler, Dial-Tone, and Wreckage have the distinctly paler skin color of the classic 3 3/4" G.I.Joes, not the more suntanned/sunburned look of the current figures, even sometimes including the few classic ones that work their way into the line. Jinx does have the darker skin tone, but very little of it shows, and she's such an otherwise cool figure, I'm not complaining. Overall, you can take these five new Tiger Force figures, stand them alongside any of the original Tiger Force figures, and they'll blend right in. And that's what G.I.Joes SHOULD be able to do!

The new TIGER FORCE is definitely a reason to get excited. I most profoundly and distinctly recommend to any longtime G.I.JOE fan that you acquire TIGER FORCE. They are worthy additions to the G.I.Joe Collection, and VERY cool figures! YO JOE!