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By Thomas Wheeler

As the G.I. Joe Sigma Six collection of 8" figures continues to prosper, new characters are added to the mix, rather than just new versions of existing characters -- although there are plenty of those, as well.

Three new characters were announced a while back, and although I was enthused to hear that Shipwreck would be signing up, and looked very forward to the addition of Wet-Suit to the line since I liked the design I saw, the first of the new characters that I came across turned out to be GRAND SLAM.

Grand Slam, as a character, makes for an interesting addition to Sigma Six. Unlike some characters, such as Lockdown or Lt. Stone, he's not a newcomer to the G.I. Joe universe. At the same time, his name is not as well known as Duke or Snake-Eyes -- even though the character name goes all the way back to 1982.

Of the original 13 G.I. Joes, Grand Slam probably got the least amount of attention. His original figure was sold with a vehicle, one of my personal favorites called the Heavy Artillery Laser. The figure's body was a slightly darker version of Flash's distinctive body (Flash being the Joe Team's original Laser Trooper), and the head was the same one shared by Grunt and Zap, and frankly, it was one of the uglier head sculpts in that first year of multiple-use parts.

Grand Slam would return the following year, in a slightly recolored version (his uniform padding was silver instead of red), as the pilot for the JUMP Jet Pack. After that -- well, there was no after that. Grand Slam vanished into obscurity except for a fairly recent 3-3/4" figure released as part of the individually-carded figures sent to Toys "R" Us. This newsculpt figure managed to capture some of the essence of Grand Slam, notably copying the chest padding, but it really wasn't all that remarkable a figure.

Grand Slam didn't fare that much better in the animated series or the comic book, either. I don't recall him ever being mentioned by name in the animated series, and in the comic book, he turned up in the first adventure, and then seemed to disappear for the most part, except for one adventure later on where he was helping Duke train a group of new recruits. He's put in a couple of appearances in the Devil's Due comic book, but nothing all that outstanding.

He didn't even manage to make it into the comic-based sets of figures, despite the fact that those sets pretty much remade everybody else from the early days. Consider Grand Slam the "Rodney Dangerfield" of the G.I. Joe Team. He's been around since the start, but he just can't get any respect.

But given that unfortunate juxtaposition of longevity-yet-obscurity, it remains somewhat surprising that he'd be brought into the Sigma Six line. That's NOT a complaint. The poor guy is over 20 years overdue for some sort of break. But it's still surprising.

Grand Slam is part of a new wave of the Commando Sigma Six figures, a wave that otherwise includes established characters in new versions. Of Windblade Snake-Eyes, Razor Ninja Storm Shadow, Ninja Flames Kamakura, Frontal Assault Duke, and Camo Long Range, Grand Slam is the only truly new face in the crowd.

One gets the impression that Grand Slam wants to overcome his obscurity in a big way, and you'd best not get in his way in the process. The figure is HUGE. Sigma Six is distinctly more liberal with its figure sizes than the 3-3/4" line. You've got average-sized guys like Duke and Snake-Eyes, slender fellows like Hi-Tech, comparative runts like Tunnel Rat, and powerhouses like Heavy Duty. Grand Slam is another powerhouse.

No great surprise there, since the figure uses the upper body and arms of Heavy Duty. But they're effectively recolored enough so that you really can't tell right off. For one thing, Heavy Duty is African- American. Grand Slam is White. For another thing, Heavy Duty's outfit was sleeveless, where's Grand Slam's has been colored to look like he's wearing short sleeves.

The ridged padding on the side of the shirt, which was painted green for Heavy Duty, has been left unpainted here. Honestly, the biggest giveaway on this figure are the ornate gloves. While not as ornately painted as Heavy Duty's were, there's not much mistaking the design.

I really don't have a problem with a toy company reusing molds like this, as long as what they're reusing them for is something sufficiently different and interesting from the original. Multiple versions of Heavy Duty are not going to be of great interest to me. Using some of Heavy Duty's molds to make a new character like Grand Slam -- I'm fine with that.

Grand Slam's legs are entirely different. They're molded to look like military trousers. One thing I sort of miss on some of these figures is the lack of cloth accessories, although Hasbro did express that this was something they were going to cut back on a bit, and in fairness, some of the other figures in Grand Slam's wave do have cloth accessories. And Grand Slam still looks impressive. Interestingly, the new legs make him very slightly shorter than Heavy Duty, even though he's still distinctly larger than the average Sigma Six character. There are molded pockets and knee pads on the trousers, and the figure has nicely detailed and heavy-looking boots. The feet, unfortunately in my opinion, are set in at a slight angle, requiring that the figure be posed in an "action stance" if you want his feet flat on the floor.

The figure's headsculpt is a little bland, but then, we're talking about a character that was perhaps unfortunately a little bland to begin with. But it's not a bad or even inappropriate headsculpt. What we have here is a fairly straightforward square-jawed hero type with a brown crewcut. If the 12" G.I.Joe headsculpt were converted into the Sigma Six style, it would probably look a lot like this. Although Grand Slam doesn't have the scar on the face.

Although Grand Slam doesn't have any real cloth accessories, he is wearing an ammo belt that includes elastic straps. He also has the usual Sigma Six metal dogtag, and a nicely made helmet that is olive green with a transparent green visor. One might assume he started to wear this on a more regular basis after whatever happened to him to give him the scar.

Notable among his accessories is a HUGE weapon called the Kickback Blaster. This is a rocket launcher that has the distinctive feature of being able to fire rocket missiles -- and then eject the cartridge that contained the rocket. Nice little bit of toy engineering there. He also comes with a medium-sized rifle that looks pretty small compared to a lot of the Sigma hardware, but I'm sure would still get the job done.

Grand Slam's file card reads as follows:



Specialty: Electronics Engineer

Personal History: Grand Slam is an expert with targeting systems of all types. He frequently works with Hi-Tech to redesign existing hardware to increase a weapon's accuracy and range of fire. He believes that large- scale artillery can be used with the same ease and precision as smaller weapons. To prove this, he has designed a tactical rocket launcher that can turn a wide area into rubble, yet is able to be carried, loaded, and fired by one person. After the launcher has reduced an area to rubble, Cobra forces will have a hard time attacking, giving Sigma 6 teams the advantage in a combat situation.

Right -- a rocket launcher that can be carried, loaded, and fired by one person -- assuming he's as big as Grand Slam. It's interesting that the file card refers to Grand Slam as an electronics engineer and a targeting expert, when the figure really looks as much like a straightforward, basic soldier -- albeit a big one -- as the Sigma Six Team has yet to have. But if you consider the original Grand Slam's background as the specialist for the Heavy Artillery Laser, certainly an advanced piece of hardware requiring great targeting precision, these specialties make sense, and in their own way are a nice nod to the original Grand Slam.

There's a couple of packaging variances that are worth mentioning. The foam rubber insert that held most of the weaponry is gone. Then again, given the size of the rocket launcher, that would've been a little tricky anyway. Also, the top and bottom of the package, which can be turned into a storage chest for the weapons, has been recolored to an almost silver-grey, compared to the lighter grey of previous Sigmas.

On the whole, this is a very cool addition to the Sigma Six line, and it's about time that the most obscure member of the original 13 Real American Heroes got a little more notice. It took Sigma Six to do it, but Grand Slam is back, and definitely in a big way even by Sigma Six standards!

Sigma Six GRAND SLAM definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!