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REVIEW:
G.I. JOE SIGMA SIX FIGURES - PART 1
By Thomas Wheeler



That's right. This is going to be a grouped series of Sigma Six reviews. I never thought it would happen, either.

However, I had a lot of people telling me that I was being grossly unfair. People who, like me, are longtime G.I. Joe fans who, like me, have lamented the treatment the 3-3/4" line has received in recent years.

So, I decided to see what Sigma Six was all about, and I brought home SEA OPS DUKE. Why him? Several reasons. From an individual standpoint, I liked the design. And, Sigma Six or G.I. Joe, it was Duke, certainly a prominent character in almost any G.I. Joe universe. And finally, he fit into the lower priced category of Soldier figures.

Let's consider the structure of the figure. 8" tall. That's an unusual scale these days. I can't think of any major figures presently in that particular scale. G.I. Joe - 3-3/4", and a smattering of 12" here and there. Star Wars - 3-3/4". Teen Titans - variable, but mostly 3-1/2", 5", and 10". Justice League - 5" and 10". Power Rangers - 5" and 12". Street Fighter - 6" scale, even if the heights are all over the map depending on the character - Sakura is 5-1/2", Ryu is 6-1/2", Guile is 6-3/4", and T.Hawk is 8", but he's one dang big Native American. Same tends to be the case with Marvel Legends. Transformers doesn't even really HAVE a scale, except for Alternators, which are 1:24 scale CARS, which in robot form tend to be around 7-1/4".

So Sigma Six appears to have the 8" scale pretty much to itself these days, except maybe for HALO. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it is sort of an unusual decision on Hasbro's part.

The Duke body is muscular without being overly powerful or super-heroic in proportion. Certainly there is an indeniable Japanese anime look to the character in its rather angular design and rather large eyes.

Articulation is excellent. The head is a ball-and-socket design that allows for a very full range of motion. Duke is able to move his head around like I wish I could after a day parked at a computer. Arms have full articulation, both forward and backward and outward. The elbows bend, but they have an odd "click" articulation to them, so that they move up to the next point along the movement parameters. There's a "swivel" built in so the arms can also rotate inward and outward. The wrists move back and forth, and rotate.

There's a good mid-torso articulation, and Duke also turned at the waist. Interestingly, he doesn't bend at the waist. The legs move forward, backwards, and outward. Knees and ankles both bend and rotate. Arguably, the figure has fifteen distinct points of articulation, each with a multiple range of movement. One can assume this carries over into most of the Sigma Six figures, and as such, the end result is a truly well-designed figure.

Now let's consider the accessories and other accoutrements. I don't tend to give a lot of attention to accessories. I don't usually display my figures with them, and in the cases of smaller figures, they tend to be vacuum cleaner bait as much as anything. However, in the Sigma Six line, clearly Hasbro has devoted quite a bit of attention to them.

Sea Ops Duke is wearing a harness that includes cloth straps, and very intricate plastic buckles. Now, honestly, this is an extremely well-made harness. It has very tiny plastic clasp buckles that are scaled down versions of what are commonly found on real-life, full-size backpacks, some luggage, and other portable personal accessories. And it looks like they're workable. I wouldn't want to try to undo one, since I'd be worried about breaking off the plastic tabs, but somebody put some real effort into this. Duke's also wearing a metal dog tag and chain.

The molded-on uniform also included a flip-up communicator on the left wrist, and a Sigma 6 logo on the uniform. Both nicely made additional touches.

Sea Ops Duke's accessories include quite a range of items. He comes packaged wearing a diving mask and oxygen tank. The mask has been molded out of transparent plastic and then painted, everything except the visor, so that he appears to be wearing a mask with a transparent green visor. This is attached to two hoses which connect to an oxygen mask that snaps to his back.

He also comes with two rubbery swim fins of a slightly implausible split- toed design. I'm not sure how well something like this would work in the real world. But they look sort of cool.

His weaponry includes a pair of pistols, either of which can be snapped into a missile launcher that has a spring-action "torpedo" in it. These are all rather futuristic in design, but not implausible in appearance.

Duke's last item is a little bit of a letdown given the workmanship put into the rest of the equipment and figure. It's an undersea seld (into which the weapons can also be snapped), but it doesn't really amount to much on its own. The fans pivot on their mounts but don't even turn. Given the high quality of the rest of the figure, I was just a little disappointed by that.

Here is Duke's file card: SIGMA 6 SEA OPERATIONS COMMANDER

Code Name: Duke

Specialty: Global Reconaissance

Personal History: Duke is an expert in covert amphibious operations. One mission involved disabling a Cobra island substation that was committing acts of marine sabotage. A submarine brought Duke within several miles of the island, and at 0400 hours he entered the ocean using an ACV equipped with GPS equipment to pinpoint his target and monitor underwater enemy patrols. With his custom pistols mounted on the underwater vehicle, he reached the substation and began the next phase of his mission: infiltrate and destroy. He subdued the Cobra forces on duty then blasted the substation with pulse grenades, reducing it to rubble. His mission complete, Duke returned to the sub as a support team arrived to detain the Cobra troops.

The card also has an extensive "Equipment Portfolio". It's not a bad file card, but it reads a little bland, and that "Personal History" reads more like a single mission briefing, designed to get the most use out of the accessories. Granted this is also a "specialty" Duke, so perhaps the "standard" Duke's file card is more interesting.

The one negative aspect to this figure as a character is that he is a prime example of what I tend to call "Batman Syndrome". This is the practice of doing multiple versions of the same core character, or characters, within a given toy line, while virtually ignoring the peripheral characters that are established within the concept upon which the toy line is based.

And there's certainly no excuse for it in Sigma Six, not with the entire 3?" G.I. Joe character roster to play with. Rather than "Sea Ops Duke", this should've been Wet-Suit, or Torpedo, or Deep Six, or somebody. And I do worry that this sort of thing is really going to hurt this line.

So, what's my take here? The only way any longtime G.I. Joe collector who pretty much started out with the Real American Hero and still rightly regards it as the pinnacle of the G.I. Joe world can find these Sigma Six figures agreeable is to separate them entirely from any previous Joes. Hasbro emphasizes "Sigma Six" on the package, so let's try to forget that these figures also carry the G.I. Joe name, that Cobra is their enemy, and that the names are the same.

Think of them as being from some alternate universe where everything has an anime bent to it, and what we know of the Real American Hero's backstory might or might not have taken place as we remember it -- up to the point where the Sigma Six adventures started. Granted there's the sticking point that the animated series apparently uses a lot of vehicles from the 3-3/4" world, but making almost any of the 3-3/4" vehicles in slightly over twice their present size for the Sigma Six line wouldn't be especially workable, which is probably why they're doing the new 2-1/2" series. (And what the heck, I have no problem in giving cool vehicles like the RHINO and the ROCC some air time.) But forget the animated series. This is about the TOYS.

And I am forced to admit that Hasbro has done a superb job with them. They obviously spent a lot of time and effort designing what is, if Sea Ops Duke is any indication, a very impressive action figure line -- in a time when there's darn few of those out there anymore. I can name the number of action figure lines that impress me these days and not run out of fingers counting them off, and two of them -- Gundam and Microman -- aren't even generally available in the USA, and one that is, arguably THE most impressive action figure line these days -- Street Fighter -- isn't readily available outside of specialty stores.

As for Sigma Six? It's so entirely different from any previous G.I. Joe that I don't think any comparison between the two is especially fair. And that means that I wasn't being especially fair. And I officially apologize. It's a very good action figure. It'll never replace the Real American Hero. But -- ON ITS OWN -- if SEA OPS DUKE is any indication, Sigma Six shows that there is still coolness and quality to be found in the standard toy aisles these days.

And so on that basis, I decided to start rounding up some more of the Sigma Six figures, and herewith are their reviews:

DUKE:

There are some things you don't do. You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger, and you don't try to do G.I. Joe without Duke (my apologies to the late Jim Croce).

Some people think that Duke was with the team from the start. Well -- not quite. Duke came along in late 1983, as the third mail-order figure for the G.I. Joe collection -- after Cobra Commander and Major Bludd. The figure's headsculpt would be slightly revised for his official "carded" release in 1984. But you sort of got the impression that the character was destined for greatness. The figure had a confident smile. He was dressed in a uniform that combined both tan and green in an effective, not overly flashy, but still impressive and distinctive design. Then there was the original card illustration. Most of the magnificent painted card art for individual characters back then had them in some sort of action pose, running or whatever. Not Duke. He was standing. He was standing tall -- holding his helmet under one arm, facing front, look of determination in his eyes and still that confident grin.

Hawk who?

Admittedly, from a "rank" standpoint, then-Colonel Hawk led the G.I. Joe Team. But figurewise, Hawk at this point still dated to 1982, and was more than a bit generic-looking. Duke managed to make three impressive debuts -- his mail-order figure, and then the carded one with that unquestionable art work; the animated mini-series which had Duke as the team's "leader", never mind that rank-wise he was technically the team's first sergeant; and in the comic book, where he and Roadblock brought down a Cobra plane that threatened to attack the funeral for General Flagg, after which Duke promised he was going to whip the Joes into better fighting shape.

When you make THAT much of a first impression, you're bound for greatness, and Duke certainly was. The original Duke figure remains one of the most popular to this day (especially if you can get it with its American flag sleeve-sticker). Duke's served on Tiger Force, Star Brigade, and Armor-Tech. His 1993 figure placed him in a very effective and nicely military desert camo uniform, during a time when G.I. Joe was nowhere near as military as it once had been. He's been prominently featured in every version of the animated series.

Duke even heralded the return of the 12" G.I. Joe when, in 1991, he was a Target exclusive in a desert uniform. There hadn't been a 12" G.I. Joe in nearly 15 years at that point in time. Duke brought the 12" Joe back in style, and was so popular, that the Target near me actually had to lock their Duke's in the store safe and dole them out to customers who had placed specific reserves on them.

Duke has remained active in 3-3/4" traditional-style G.I. Joes, turning up in several of the Toys "R" Us 6-packs as well as the comic sets (admittedly, these weren't exactly the highlights for the character from a figural standpoint), has had two 12" talking versions over the years, and he's certainly been in the newsculpt 3-3/4" line.

So does anyone really think that Sigma 6 is going to proceed without Duke? Especially since, according to the animated series, and in one bit of continuity tied to the newsculpt 3-3/4" line, Hawk is still getting over being turned into Venomous Maximus during the "Valor vs. Venom" storyline.

So when it came time to start up Sigma 6, there was only one man for the job -- DUKE!

So, how's the Sigma 6 Duke figure? Well, within the parameters of the anime style of Sigma 6, it certainly looks like Duke. Square-jawed, blue- eyes, blonde crew-cut. Has a distinctive "Joe" scar on his right cheek, something the 3-3/4" version doesn't have, but it's a nice little nod to the original 12" Joe.

The figure is dressed in a short-sleeved Sigma Suit, with dark blue trim and boots. He's also wearing a padded blue vest which thankfully doesn't look too much like a life jacket. Now one might normally associate the color blue with Cobra, but somehow, Duke manages to pull the look off without looking like a Cobra. Must be that all-American face.

The figure comes with a ton of accessories, including a grappling hook device with "rapid climb feature", a "Switchfire" weapon, a grenade launcher with couple of very futuristic looking grenades, a bayonet, and more.

It's worth noting that there are two versions of this Duke available. The early version, which is the better-looking of the two in my opinion, has relatively pale skin. The more common version has darker, tanned skin. The reason I don't think he looks quite as good is because Hasbro tried to spray on this blonde "5 o'clock shadow" across his chin and it just plain looks ridiculous.

Fortunately, I managed to get a paler-skinned Duke. And about the only complaint I can make about him is a couple of his articulation points, his head and mid-torso especially, aren't quite as tight as I'd like. They're not bad, but they could be better, and based on some postings I've seen in some Joe message boards, this is not an uncommon situation with this particular Duke.

Now, since this IS Duke, and it could be argued that he is the foundation of the Sigma 6 Team, I'd like to use his particular review to discuss a few general matters regarding Sigma 6 figures. Don't worry, these aren't complaints. In fact, they're compliments.

First off, I love the fact that each of the Sigma 6 Joes comes with a little metal dog tag, that has the "6" logo on it. This is just a nice little extra touch that is appreciated.

I'd also like to discuss the painting of the figure. Now, I will forever gripe against the sporadic hand-painting of certain details. But that's not what I want to mention here. For the most part, the painting detail on these figures is excellent, and I want to specifically mention the eyes. There must be up to five separate spray ops on the eyes alone. That's pretty impressive these days.

Next I'd like to discuss the packaging. While it's a bit overworked, in that you can't really get as good a look at the figure in package as you might like to, and honestly, I'd really like five minutes in a locked room with a the guy that invented plastic coated wire twist-ties and saw an application for securing toys in their packages with them, the graphic design of the Sigma 6 packaging is immensely cool. It manages to be high-tech and a bit futuristic without being entirely implausible. Really the graphic designers should be proud of themselves for what they've come up with here.

And I like the continuity of the Joe uniforms. For all the different body sizes, for the fabric accessories here and there, the Sigma Suits have a good consistent design, really only broken up by the individual's trim color of choice, and I like the "6" logo that is imprinted on each of them. This logo in itself is a cool design.

I also really like the little "flip-top" communicator wrist bands that all of the Joes wear. This is a fairly intricate little feature that they all have, and it's a nice touch of consistency that I sincerely appreciate.

And most of the figures come with these very cool translucent green goggles. They're a separate piece, molded in the transparent green, with rims and whatever painted an opaque color. They're one of the cooler common accessories.

And the fabric accessories are cool, too. Duke, as I said, has this cool padded vest. But it's held in place with these little plastic buckles that are miniature replicas of the same sort of buckle that is often seen on modern backpacks and other similar equipment.

His file card reads as follows:

SIGMA 6 GLOBAL OPERATIONS COMMANDER

Code Name: Duke

Specialty: Global Reconaissance

Personal History: Duke began his career as a covert operative in global undercover missions. Through a series of dangerous assignments, he gained critical experience leading teams and fighting the enemy. When a team commander was wounded during a critical mission, Duke took control and led the successful capture of the Cobra force that was destroying worldwide security networks. After demonstrating his leadership, he was given command of other operations that required his tactical skill and combat expertise. Each time, he fought spies and traitors - and won. Because of all these skills and experiences, he was given command of the Sigma 6 force.

Not exactly coinciding with the 3-3/4" Duke's history, but well-written.

So, do I recommend Duke? Well, duh. If you're going to collect Sigma 6, you need to have Duke. I recommend trying to find the paler-skinned version, but that may be impossible at this point. However, the darker- skinned version is certainly tolerable, and there must be something (other than an actual shave -- don't try that!)

But apart from that, the Sigma 6 DUKE certainly has my highest recommendation!

HEAVY DUTY

Two questions come to mind right off the bat when studying the Sigma Six Heavy Duty figure. One is, why does he have a bandage permanently affixed to the bridge of his nose (although that was explained in an episode of the animated series)? The other is, why isn't this Roadblock?

Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with the Heavy Duty character within the world of G.I. Joe, and indeed, Heavy Duty has made more of a mark than I suspect most people realize. The character was first introduced in 1991, and remains a very cool figure from a time period that a lot of longtime Joe fans don't regard as a high point in the original line. Heavy Duty managed a 12-inch "Basic Training" figure in the Hall of Fame line, got himself assigned to the Star Brigade Armor-Tech team, and turned up again in the late 90's along with Thunderwing (renamed from Thunder), packaged with the reissued MOBAT Tank. So Heavy Duty has done all right for himself, really.

The character had increased in popularity in recent years. Although Heavy Duty did appear in his original form in the generally dismal DIC series in the early 90's, he wasn't given much of a backstory. Granted, neither was much of anyone else. More recently, he turned up in the CGI movies that were based on the newsculpt line, where Heavy Duty was briefly used as a substitute for Roadblock, much as he seems to be now. In fact, it was indicated, and this has apparently been carried over to Sigma Six, that Heavy Duty is actually Roadblock's cousin, and has inherited a number of his attributes, including his massive size, strength -- and his cooking ability.

For my part, I tend to view the relationship as a bit apocryphal, sort of like how Gene Roddenberry wasn't too happy with the Star Trek movie that gave Spock a half-brother named Sybok. There was never any indication in the first Heavy Duty figure that such a relationship existed. It's not that big a deal, but it was obviously developed so that Heavy Duty could REPLACE Roadblock for reasons unknown.

I have nothing at all against the Heavy Duty character, but if it comes down to a popularity contest, there IS no contest. If you ask anybody to name the best-known, large, African-American, heavy machine gunner for the G.I. Joe Team, it's going to be Roadblock. Even taking away all of those specifications, Roadblock is one of the best-known and most popular members of the G.I. Joe Team, so why Hasbro chose Heavy Duty to make the jump over to Sigma Six is a mystery. Granted, so are a lot of Hasbro's decisions, and Heavy Duty isn't even the most obscure character name to be transfered over. That'd be Long Range.

And that still doesn't explain the bandage on the nose, despite its appearance in the animated series. Although this is something I have seen in anime-based characters before, and certainly Sigma Six has a rather significant nod to Japanese anime in its character design, so apparently someone decided to throw this particular affectation into the mix. Not that I've ever understood it regardless of where it's turned up. Are we to assume that anime characters heal from cuts that slowly? Or that they're so accident-prone and odds-defying that they keep managing to injure precisely the same spot over and over again? I just don't get it. Maybe his protective goggles chafe.

So, what are some of the most notable things about Heavy Duty? Well, for one thing -- he's huge. In a line that maintains an 8" scale for the most part, Heavy Duty is over nine inches in height. I doubt there's any truth to the rumor that he's moonlighting as Cyborg for the Teen Titans, but he looks like he could if he wanted to. Actually, he looks more like he'd be inclined to say, "I don't NEED no stupid cyborg parts to take down Cobra!" If he's reminiscent of anyone toywise, it'd be Butch Meathook from the Commando Elite in the movie "Small Soldiers". And indeed, he probably doesn't need any such cybernetic enhancements. Because Heavy Duty comes with an abundant supply of accessories.

Many G.I. Joe collectors tend to be accessory nuts. This is true of both 12" collectors and 3-3/4" collectors. In the case of the 12" collectors, it is probably because most of G.I. Joe's accessories were made with as much authenticity as possible, and they tend to look it. In the case of 3-3/4" collectors, it is probably because many of the accessories were made with a good degree of authenticity, and MOST of them were so darn small a fair percentage of them probably got turned into vacuum cleaner bait over the years.

This will not be a concern for Heavy Duty. Hasbro has certainly not neglected the accessories for Sigma Six, and they most assuredly did not neglect them for Heavy Duty. The guy comes with a massive machine gun contraption that fires spring-loaded missiles and comes with a backpack that has these snap-in tanks depending on what sort of charge he wants to give the missiles or whatever. It looks like an array that's one part Star Trek, one part Ghostbusters, and nothing that anyone in their right mind would want to go up against.

It's worth noting that there was an early variant of this figure, from the standpoint of accessories. Early versions gave Heavy Duty's weapon a blue tank and a red tank. Later versions have a blue tank and a green tank.

Heavy Duty on his own looks like he could bust a few heads without even trying. Heavy Duty fully armed -- well, if I'm a Cobra trooper, Cobra Commander is in deep trouble, because I'm not hanging around to mess with THAT!

Heavy Duty is wearing a pair of fabric trousers. Now, honestly, in my opinion, it's a bit of a stretch to give these figures cloth uniform parts. It works better than I thought it might, but really, they're ALMOST too small to get away with it. Just the way fabric works, unless you're talking about a superhero in tights, I really feel that a figure shouldn't be much under 12" in height to be able to look good wearing a fabric outfit. Still, Heavy Duty doesn't look all that bad, really.

Here is Heavy Duty's file card:
SIGMA 6 ARTILLERY EXPERT

Code Name: Heavy Duty

Specialty: Superior Strength Actions

Personal History: Heavy Duty began as a weapons support operative in low-security missions. His extreme physical strength quickly made him the top choice for covert ops teams who needed someone to overcome heavily reinforced buildings and large enemy forces. He volunteered to work with the advanced systems division so that he could learn everything there is to know about weaponry, both existing systems and those in development. Both his systems expertise and his raw strength were instrumental in ending a siege at a heavily barricaded facility. His superior knowledge of how to overcome solid obstacles and powerful enemies made him a top choice for the Sigma 6 Team.

Not bad, a little bland, and lacking the Larry Hama flair of the original file cards, but not bad. Some of it could arguably be in keeping with the original Heavy Duty character, since the 1991 Heavy Duty did have a rather odd, but not entirely implausible weapons platform, and then Heavy Duty next turned up in the Armor-Tech segment of Star Brigade. Although I still feel that the Sigma 6 Heavy Duty has stolen some of Roadblock's thunder. He's supposed to be the big powerhouse.

Any complaints about the toy? Just two -- his orange bandanna does NOT want to stay put very well. Nothing a couple of drops of glue couldn't remedy, I suppose.

And -- the shoulder pads are HAND-PAINTED! Am I being picky? You're dang straight I am. The action figure world in general is in enough trouble these days without taking short cuts that make the end product look cheap and third-rate. Maybe the average kid doesn't care, but a lot of people do, and if this particular situation worsens, I can see a time when even the kids don't want a toy that looks that sloppy. At least in the case of Heavy Duty, it's JUST the shoulder pads. But it still bothers me.

Bottom line, this is still a very impressive entry in the Sigma Six line, which ultimately is more impressive than I originally believed. A lot of imagination and attention to detail has gone into these toys. And honestly, they can't fairly be compared to the 3-3/4" Joes, especially not the modern product. On its own, Sigma Six is pretty darn cool. And so is HEAVY DUTY. He definitely has my recommendation!

TUNNEL RAT

Most people tend to grant that the Marvel Comics G.I. Joe series is the definitive "canon" for G.I. Joe, generally regarding the Devil's Due series in the same category to a somewhat lesser degree. The animated series is generally not seen as having the same degree of official approval or continuity, whether you're talking about the Marvel or DIC series. No one really wants to think about Lady Jaye being related to Destro, or Duke being Scarlett's main beau when she's got Snake-Eyes in the comic book, or -- whatever.

The problem with Tunnel Rat is that he didn't really get a lot of attention in either format. He appeared in the animation only in G.I. Joe The Movie, where he was one of a handful of new recruits that tended to get on Beach Head's nerves as much as anything. And although he did appear in the comic book a fair amount, his personality was never as extensively developed as some of the more prominent characters.

Tunnel Rat was an EOD specialist, Explosives Ordnance Disposal, and he was good at his job, and didn't mind the least bit crawling through a wide range of nasty environments to get the job done. The character, despite having a real name of "Nicky Lee", was loosely based on Larry Hama, longtime and almost sole writer of the G.I. Joe comics for Marvel, and some for Devil's Due, and Tunnel Rat could arguably be regarded as a consistent "B"-level character on the Joe team following his initial debut in 1987.

But for a personality, we're sort of left guessing. So were the producers of the Sigma 6 animated series, when Tunnel Rat made the jump from the Real American Hero over to Sigma 6, so they pretty much had to come up with something.

What they came up with, unfortunately, was a total spaz case who's proven to be one of the most annoying characters in the history of G.I. Joe.

Tunnel Rat, in the animated series, is a strange little twerp who apparently LIKES hanging around in the sewers, eats the assorted vermin-based wildlife to be found in those sewers, is far too easily distracted from his job, often attempting variations on assorted "extreme" sports in the process, and has been known to endanger his life and others by pulling such dumb stunts as switching off his communicator when Hi-Tech tries to tell him to get his act together and get on with the job. How he's even managed to stay on the team with this sort of attitude and work ethic is beyond me.

In the final episode of the season, Tunnel Rat managed to redeem himself a bit, showing a serious side when it looked like Duke had been soundly defeated by Cobra Commander and might not be coming back from it. And in fairness, he DOES tend to get the job done, even if sometimes it takes longer than the Joes would like, and he still manages to be profoundly annoying in the process.

Fortunately, the Sigma 6 Tunnel Rat action figure comes across a bit better than his animated counterpart. He doesn't even LOOK as spaced- out, for one thing. Granted, Tunnel Rat's strange facial expressions in the animated series would be almost impossible to duplicate in plastic. Suffice to say that the facesculpt for the Tunnel Rat figure is very well done, and a lot more -- professional-looking, for lack of a better term.

Tunnel Rat is the smallest of the Sigma 6 figures. He's a bit under the standard 8" in height, and is very slender compared to most of his team- mates. I guess that's what happens if your diet is mostly roaches and maybe a rat or two here and there. His arms seem almost unnaturally long, reaching almost to his knees.

Since this figure is part of the less-expensive grouping, he doesn't really have a lot of extras on his person. There's no additional fabric clothing, although he does have a nicely made harness, and translucent green goggles on an elastic strap.

Tunnel Rat's accessories are considerable, and well made. He comes with a pistol, a couple of grenades, a very effectively-made folding knife, and a "Sledpack" that attaches to the figure's back, and has a pair of simulated "lights" at the top.

This Tunnel Rat's specialty is not EOD. It's "Subterranean Infiltration", although he's listed at the top as "Demolitions Expert", so some of his original specialty carries over. Anyway, his file card reads as follows:

SIGMA 6 DEMOLITIONS EXPERT

Code Name: Tunnel Rat

Specialty: Subterranean Infiltration

Personal History: Tunnel Rat is an expert at outdoor survival tactics and can provide any small, portable equipment needed at any given moment from his seemingly bottomless Sledpack. He is highly skilled at infiltrating extremely narrow areas, and uses his Sledpack in these small passageways as a fast, highly maneuverable land sled. His expertise helped the Sigma 6 team successfully infiltrate a previously impenetrable Cobra facility. The only access was an abandoned pipeline considered too small for concern. He glided through the pipe on his mobilized Sledpack, pulled an array of weapons from a hidden compartment in his pack, and captured the surprised guards before they even had time to reach for their weapons.

The figure is superbly well made and nicely detailed, and his smaller size makes him an interesting offset to some of the others, much as Heavy Duty does at the other end of the scale.

My only complaint at all with the figure, and it's probably not a consistent one for ALL Tunnel Rat's, is that his left leg is bent a little outwards past the knee. If I blame anything for this, I blame the packaging. Tunnel Rat -- and he's hardly alone in this -- is wedged into a plastic bubble with some parts on both sides of said bubble, and I can see how this could cause some distortion of the plastic after a long period of time unmoving in the package. I see no great need to put these figures in "action poses" in their packages if this sort of thing is the risked result.

That aside, though, TUNNEL RAT is certainly a worthwhile addition to the Sigma 6 collection, and I definitely recommend him! Trust me, he won't be nearly as annoying as his cartoon counterpart.

SPIRIT IRON-KNIFE

The character of Spirit was first introduced into the world of G.I. Joe in 1984. This Native American character was assigned to the Joe Team as an expert tracker. He came with some archery equipment, an eagle named Freedom, and a whole lot of baggage about being a pretty blatant stereotype of Native Americans.

The figure had braided hair, a headband, and a headsculpt that looked like it was pulled right off a Buffalo Nickel. He was more prominently featured in the animated series than he was the comic book, where he seemed to have this "one with nature" thing going that let him communicate with his eagle. Granted, he wasn't ignored in the comic book, either, and his personality was much the same there. Fortunately, he was a distinctive enough character so that, stereotypes aside, he still became a well-regarded and distinctive member of the Joe Team, arguably a "B" list player who was just a little short of making the "A" list.

Spirit turned up several times in the original line. He was recolored as a member of Slaughter's Marauders. About this same time, a different version turned up in Europe, which didn't get Slaughter's Marauders. This grey-and-red-uniformed Spirit is especially prized among collectors of the 3-3/4" line. The character received an entirely new set of molds
-- and not an improvement in my opinion -- for the Air Commandos in the early 90's, and has turned up in the newsculpt line as well.

And is one of the core characters of the Sigma 6 Team. For some time, he's gone by the name of "Spirit Iron-Knife". This is a combination of his original code-name, Spirit, and his real name, which is Charlie Iron- Knife. Probably "Spirit Iron-Knife" got past Hasbro's Legal department a little more readily.

But the Sigma 6 Spirit seems to be a somewhat different character than his 3-3/4" predecessor. One got the impression that the 3-3/4" Spirit was maybe a little older than some of the others. In the animated series, he had a deep voice, and a patience that a lot of the other Joes lacked. The Sigma 6 Spirit looks younger, although he still comes across pretty much as he did before personality-wise in the animated series.

The figure is very nicely designed, and is easily one of the more -- ornate Joes. Both arms have considerable tattoos on them, which have a distinctive design to them.

Spirit also has a touch of warpaint across his face, and the trim color to his uniform is a dark turquoise -- appropriate as well, if you know the region -- which living in Arizona, I most certainly do. The figure has rugged-looking grey fabric trousers, and his boots are rather moccasin-ish in appearance.

The figure's accessories include a very high-tech archery set, a pair of nasty-looking tomahawks, and a large knife. He also comes with a bird, a grey-and-white eagle-looking critter with "bendie" wings. Apparently this is NOT Freedom, which unfortunately ruined a perfectly good joke I had lined up when someone asked why they'd colored Freedom grey for Sigma 6. I was just about to respond saying, "Look, I don't know what the average lifespan of an eagle is, but given that Spirit and Freedom first turned up in 1984, 22 years ago, I'd expect him to look a little grey by now!" Unfortunately, somebody beat me to it with a straight answer that it wasn't the same bird. The new one is named Billy. Why, I don't really know. When I'm thinking about what a Native American might name his pet bird of prey, "Billy" isn't exactly the first thing that leaps to mind.

Spirit's file card reads as follows:

SIGMA 6 TRACKER

Code Name: Spirit Iron-Knife

Specialty: Explosive Devices

Personal History: Spirit Iron-Knife started in field operations and was selected for the most difficult missions because of his outstanding ability to spot overlooked clues. He became a lead investigator at special ops and solved complex cases with his ability to track suspects using just shreds of information. He was soon promoted to covert ops and used his tracking skills to uncover criminals skilled at concealing their existence. He is also an expert at creating small, precisely targeted explosions that disable mechanical or electronic systems without destroying the entire structure. He is a highly skilled marksman with his bow, using technologically advanced arrows that deliver powerful explosions.

Do I have any complaints about this figure? Just one, and it's fairly minor. The fabric trousers are held in place only by the belt. They could really use a snap or two sewn in there. Heavy Duty's trousers have a couple of snaps. These could use at least one. The pants are not in danger of falling off, certainly. It's just a little detail that I think should have been included. Probably considered and deleted due to cost over-runs or something. The fabric bandanna or the arm tattoos, maybe.

But as I said, a minor point. The figure is otherwise truly excellent, and anyone who's collecting Sigma 6 should definitely add SPIRIT IRON- KNIFE to their collection. He has my highest recommendation!

(continued...see Part 2)